Combustible Celluloid
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With: Aaron Eckhart, Tommy Lee Jones, Katheryn Winnick, Heather Graham, Raymond Cruz, Brendan Fehr, Nicole Steinwedell
Written by: Tim Doiron
Directed by: April Mullen
MPAA Rating: R for violence and bloody images
Running Time: 93
Date: 12/04/2020

Wander (2020)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Paint the Town Dead

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The off-the-rails paranoid thriller Wander is so untethered — not helped by Eckhart's weird, inconsistency lunatic performance — that it's difficult to tell whether or not it's taking itself seriously.

Arthur Bretnik (Aaron Eckhart) is an ex-cop turned private investigator, who also hosts a podcast about paranoid conspiracy theories with his friend Jimmy (Tommy Lee Jones). He's also struggling to cope with the death of his daughter, taking fistfuls of prescription meds. A woman calls into the show, claiming that her own daughter was murdered and that the authorities are in on it. So Arthur heads to the small town of Wander to investigate.

He begins to uncover startling things, including the exact same exit wound on several different victims, as well as an underground bunker, and a mysterious woman (Katheryn Winnick), who seems to be in all the wrong places at all the wrong times. Will Arthur's own paranoia protect him until he gets to the bottom of things?

At certain times, Eckhart's Arthur recalls some of Nicolas Cage's loopier characters (he's frequently out of breath and wincing in pain), and at other times, he lowers his chin and snarls and growls like Christian Bale's Batman. It's difficult to know if he actually knows what he's doing, or if he's a disaster waiting to happen. It's also difficult to tell just how the other characters relate to him. As for one character who keeps popping up, Shelley (Heather Graham), we don't learn until near the end that she's his lawyer!

Wander purposely employs little holes in the storytelling, where crucial events are omitted and then explained later; this presumably is an attempt to build suspense, but it only builds annoyance and confusion. Director April Mullen spends a large amount of time following behind Eckhart, staring at his back as he investigates things, and most of the rest of the time on nauseatingly jerky hand-held camerawork.

Meanwhile, Breaking Bad's Raymond Cruz has very little to do, and Jones mostly phones in his performance, but at least adds a few moments of lightness. Overall, the movie is just screwy enough that it might amuse viewers who are caught in the right mood.

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