Published May 04, 2009The most impressive part of the life of Larry Hillbrom is that even with an expertly made documentary exploring his mystery, he remains unravelled to this day.
Alexis Manya Spraic, a graduate in philosophy, economics and non-fiction writing (all of which become quite pertinent in the film), builds a sly, if ultimately kind of depressing, whodunit? revolving around the estate of the long-missing Hillbrom, and the Saipan women with children claiming it.
Spraic gets to the heart of Hillbrom by revealing a man who seemed to display little of it, at least in terms of his personal life. Friends speak warmly of him but are they all pawns in Hillbrom's twisted plans? Spraic structures Billionaire with the cleverness of a taut Hollywood thriller, with the clues revealed to the viewer as they are revealed to the compelling characters. Early in the film, it's made known that Hillblom has an affinity for Howard Hughes, and we see how Hillblom gradually took on the same excesses, not to mention the penchant for crashing planes.
After his first plane crash, Hillblom already starts to look like a shell of a man, with intense facial reconstruction surgery twisting his face into a contortion of its former self. In the 1995 crash, the bodies of the two other passengers were recovered but not Hillbrom's. Who's to say Hillbrom isn't still out there with a completely new face?
David Lujan, the lawyer who helped expose Hillbrom's sordid exploits, doesn't wait to find out, and Spraic shifts the dynamics of empathy and distrust so deftly it stands tall, as entertaining true-crime tales go. (BMP)