Collaborator | Movie review
Actor Martin Donovan delivers a stagy directorial debut.
One could easily mistake Collaborator, the first feature written and directed by actor Martin Donovan (Boss), for a faithful adaptation of an obscure Off Broadway production. Predominantly a two-hander, the film traffics in techniques more theatrical than cinematic—which may be the point, given that Donovan has cast himself as a washed-up, once-provocative playwright. Staying with his mother in Los Angeles, the author finds his midlife crisis rudely interrupted when David Morse’s conservative, ex-convict neighbor—a man he’s known since childhood—invites himself over for beers, only to pull a gun on him when the LAPD comes knocking. In what has to be the least tense hostage situation in movie history, the two toss back cold ones, play a couple of improv games and engage in some thinly veiled class warfare. Meanwhile, the cops set up a perimeter around the house, unaware what’s happening inside resembles an Edward Albee play more than Die Hard.
There’s a hint of an amusing idea here: A political writer held captive by one of the common men he champions in his work. As a filmmaker, Donovan highlights the vast cultural and philosophical differences between these two characters through conversations that only occasionally sound schematic. As an actor, though, he gives a performance so relaxed—so absurdly nonchalant—that it zaps the scenario of any urgency. Morse, in the showier of the roles, mostly just grandstands; he’s not playing a person so much as a foil—Charlie Meadows to Donovan’s Barton Fink. If there’s an advantage to seeing such heavy-handed material on screen instead of stage, it’s this: The actors won’t notice when you bail halfway through. (Available on VOD Wed 20; see tribecafilm.com for details.)