Inhale leaves too much time to breathe.
Inhale (2010) is another tepid melodrama that strains for action and longs for suspense but never quite escapes mediocrity. The story feels unnecessarily uptight, especially across the back and shoulders, a thin veneer of a docudrama stretched over the promise of an American thriller. Loaded scenarios and convenient, plot-centric traipsing clutter the fractured narrative, spring boarding from present to the past and back again. Part morality lesson, part cautionary tale, we’re inevitably thigh-high in the mud of another crime drama medical procedural that’s far too reminiscent of prime time television for its own good. Such pairings do little to balance facts for facts sake, or proper fiction to enliven the otherwise emotionally adolescent, thin boned characters.
Modish and exceedingly distracted, the fluffy clouds of modern suburbia beat a straight line to the sinister-flavored underbelly of a dangerous Mexico where mendacity and stagy circumstances abound; like paint by numbers, not quite original but with just enough outside the lines to give the impression of made up like a Thomas Kincade painting. Dermot Mulroney is dapper Paul Stanton, a self-assured up-and-coming District Attorney who heads to Mexico to find a cure for his daughter – we learn straight away that her days are numbered and his only shot at saving her is a suspicious doctor who promises a double lung transplant at a discount. The trouble with his plan is immediate – dark alleys lead to repeated poundings and robberies; he narrowly escapes death every five minutes and just when things look like they’re turning up, he discovers the cure rests with a group of ex-patriot American physicians who kill their patients and sell their organs to the highest bidder.
Icelandic actor, theater and film director, and film producer Baltasar Kormakur is best known for films you’ve most likely never heard of. Some are perhaps more familiar in the aisles of the local rental place or in a long list of ‘newly available rentals’ at Netflix or some other such place. Kormakur’s $12 million dollar psychological thriller A Little Trip to Heaven (2005) – starring Julia Stiles (Bourne franchise, Mona Lisa Smile) and Forest Whitaker (The King of Scotland, Repo Men) was a straight to DVD release, though it is difficult to say whether that was a matter of distribution or Kormakur’s inability to captivate American audiences. If you’re in Iceland this year or next, you can catch his $2 million dollar drama Djúpið (2011) – or maybe you’d prefer to wait for his $32 million dollar American endeavor Contraband starring Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, Ben Foster and Giovanni Ribisi, among others; about a security guard with financial difficulty who considers a revisit to his more lucrative and illegal ways when someone nearby offers him a deal he can’t refuse.
Inhale is the anesthetized newspaper headline of someone else’s kid in some other town, a passing thought on the way to the sports page, and the last thing you want to think about at the theater or in your living room for your excursion from everyday. Good will teachings about human failures and the triumph of the will to overcome crummy are generally opposing principles at either end of a stadium filled with people doing their best to look the other way. While the subject of organ trafficking is an interesting crossroads with built-in danger at every turn and questionable characters looming, it’s not exactly unfamiliar territory. Stephen Frears explored the subject in his film Dirty Pretty Things (1992) and Damian Lee made the trip in The Donor (1995) and David Marconi’s The Harvest (1992). I suppose it’s worth revisiting in light of the last decade or so of fascination with the macabre and all things death, torture and mayhem. There is an uneasy sense of intrigue about mortality for sale, trading body parts for dollars and South of the border operations that fills seats and sells popcorn; I think average folks find something tantalizing about the inky-dark corners of pretend underworlds where everything you can imagine has real world price tags. But these places don’t really exist in the everyday street level view of the world, not really.
Perhaps it would have been easier if Mulroney’s cracker jack District Attorney wasn’t so blasé; I suppose tenacity counts for something yet it doesn’t make his performance any more impressionable. Wife, Diane (Diane Kruger) is no help in this regard, hardly more vested than a table lamp with a nice shade, little more than a plot Popsicle with a convincing smile. Sam Shepard and Rosanna Arquette make an appearance but their characters are essentially one-trick ponies, emotionally constipated and purposeless except to plot. Vincent Perez is about as convincing as his portrayal of the undead superhero in the movie the Crow – a passing story, forgettable characters and a fading aftertaste like diet soda.