Review by Sean Boelman
The newest film reuniting director Bruce McDonald and star Stephen McHattie (Pontypool), the new horror-tinged crime drama Dreamland has to be one of the biggest disappointments of the year so far. With a story that’s barely sensical and a tone that’s all over the place, after this film, viewers will be left wondering what they just watched, and more importantly, why they watched it in the first place.
The movie follows an assassin that is hired by a brutal crime boss to cut off the finger of a junkie jazz trumpeter before the night of a big performance, soon finding himself trapped in a web of mystery and deception. On its surface, this is a frustratingly plain impressionistic neo-noir, but once vampires make their way into the story, it becomes obvious just how ridiculous this film really is.
Yes, it is this horribly unfocused plotting that makes the movie so unpleasant. Although some might find charm in laughing at the absurdity of what proceeds on the screen, the film wears out its welcome rather quickly. Even at just over an hour and a half, the movie feels entirely too long because of the mostly random nature of the story.
Like any sprawling crime epic, there’s a cast of characters here that promise to be mysterious and intriguing. One could almost see the eponymous “Dreamland” being substituted for a past version of Brooklyn or Los Angeles and turning this into a more serious (and perhaps more enjoyable) endeavor. Yet writers Tony Burgess and Patrick Whistler don’t do anything to take them beyond their basic set-up.
On paper, the protagonist of the film should be a perfect antihero. A man who made some mistakes and bad decisions in his life, but has a conscience and a desire to right his wrongs. Unfortunately, early on in the movie, there is a scene in which the character orders a child bride, and that completely destroys any sympathy the audience may have for him.
McHattie is a very talented actor, and he is given dual roles here (for no obvious reason other than to presumably show off), but the material is so shallow that he can’t make anything of it. His performances are so uncharacteristically flat that he seems woefully miscast. And the supporting cast, especially Juliette Lewis, is put to waste.
On a technical level, McDonald’s film can’t be faulted for a lack of effort, but sadly, all of his attempts to bring some energy fall flat. At least the movie isn’t drab and grey like so many of the genre are, but over-the-top and hectic editing and supposedly nightmarish imagery don’t have much of an impact.
Dreamland is one of the worst movies of 2020 so far, but not because it’s boring. It’s truly all over the place, completely inept at juggling its various tones and storylines in a satisfying way.
Dreamland hits VOD on June 5.