Published Jun 01, 2006Down in the Vally is Taxi Driver meets Wim Wenders without being as good as either. Its a modern-day western tragedy thats curious to watch but pays out no real dividends.
Edward Norton plays an apparent Western transplant to the San Fernando Valley; trouble brews when he romances underage sylph Evan Rachel Wood against the wishes of her father David Morse. As it turns out, Norton is clearly not in his right mind, being given to make-believe shootouts in his motel room and shanghaiing Woods brother Rory Culkin for target practice. Alas, the only interest in the film is watching it float between admiration and damnation for its deluded protagonist as he gets increasingly possessive and drifts towards violence.
In one sense hes a dangerous psycho living out a ridiculous fantasy and in another hes the wounded narcissistic pride of every boy who found himself living out revenge fantasies at the movies. But unlike Scorseses masterpiece its not aware of this double-edged identity and thus fails completely to give us any genuine use for the character. Hes not used to explore a common type or a social phenomenon; hes simply called into being, to what ends we mortals may never know for sure.
To be fair, director David Jacobson has more of an eye than were used to from ultra-bland American pseudo-indies and he makes you watch some absurdly forced exchanges longer than some other directors might. But though the central contradiction is a fascinating one it isnt explored in articulate detail.
You wont be bored but you wont see the point either, with an ending that will leave you bewildered and befuddled rather than satisfied and enlightened. (Th!nk)