Craig's First Take: "The Canyons"

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A contemporary thriller neo-noir set in L.A. detailing the dangers of sexual obsession and ambition, both personally and professionally, among a group of people in their 20's and how one chance meeting unravels all of their lives, resulting in deceit, paranoia, cruel mind games and ultimately, violence. Directed by Paul Schrader and produced by Braxton Pope, the film stars Lindsay Lohan, James Deen, Nolan Gerard Funk & Amanda Brooks.
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“The Canyons” begins by showing us pictures of boarded-up, abandoned movie theaters and if some of our best filmmakers are making movies like “The Canyons”, we should probably expect an even bigger scrapbook coming soon. This passion project of writer/provocateur Brett Easton Ellis (“American Psycho”) and director Paul Schrader (“American Gigolo”), funded through kickstarter, slowly starts to seem like less than zero (and yes I do intend that as an Ellis pun). Christian (James Deen) is a definite Ellis character, a narcissistic trust-fund kid financing some crappy movie just cause he needs something to do. He prefers a swinger’s lifestyle with his girlfriend Tara (Lyndsey Lohan), who came to Hollywood for a career and then seems to have decided 5 minutes later that being taken care of like some good-for-nothing lay-about is much easier. We first see them out to dinner with Ryan (Nolan Gerard Funk), a good-looking but incredibly bland bartender being given his big acting break in Christian’s film, and his girlfriend Gina (Amanda Brooks). In true titillating, soap-opera fashion, three out of four of these people, plus a yoga instructor (Tenille Houston), are cheating on each other and in true eye-rolling fashion, the movie seems to be one conversation after another about the cheating and or obsession on character has for another. Ellis seems to want to make the point that Hollywood is a cruel place based around the powerful and powerless but instead all these people just come off aimlessly lazy, while Schrader can put together a stylish, depraved sex scene but his film is sluggishly paced. Lohan is acting beside amateurs and she’s still not even the best performance in the film. Deen shows the hubris and vacant expression of a sociopath, but then again, nearly everyone and everything here looks vacant, he’s just the only one it seems to be working for.