Collaborator takes a subtle approach to hostage drama
Starring Martin Donovan and David Morse. Rated 14A.
Martin Donovan’s Collaborator is a hostage drama that takes sly pleasure in its deliberately subdued approach. In Donovan’s debut as a writer-director, there are no tense cops shouting through bullhorns, just two lost souls trying to work things out as best they can. One of them has a gun.
The guy with the gun is Gus (David Morse), a brooding ex-con who lives with his mother in California. Gus grew up across the street from future celebrity Robert Longfellow (Donovan), currently a Broadway playwright whose marriage and career are rapidly hitting the skids. Robert’s latest bomb may be the talk of New York, but Gus—who has done time for manslaughter—is still the talk of the old neighbourhood.
The two men reunite after Robert decides to visit his aging mother (Katherine Helmond). When the starstruck Gus suggests they grab a few beers and hang out, Robert is both wary and intrigued. Robert sees Gus as the kind of streetwise character who could revive his career. Even when their attempt at socializing turns into a full-fledged hostage situation, Robert can’t resist using the time for research.
What ultimately emerges is a film that delights at playing with convention. Despite serious emotional problems, Gus turns out to be a surprisingly obliging kidnapper. He is everything a captive celebrity could ask for: generous, enthusiastic, and remarkably inquisitive about the creative process. In contrast, Robert comes across as jaded, pompous, and far less intuitive.
Once again, Morse proves why he’s one of the most underrated actors around. Some may find Donovan’s performance a little too low-key, under the circumstances. But, like the film as a whole, Donovan’s portrayal consistently opts for the kind of subtlety that credits us with paying attention.
Watch the trailer for Collaborator.