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Silver City

By Violet LeVoit | Posted 9/22/2004

Silver City continues director John Sayles’ series of portraits of American contradictions and divides. Here, the trouble starts in the luxury Colorado development of Silver City, as empty-suit Senate candidate Dickie Pilager (Chris Cooper), while filming an environmental ad on the water, accidentally hooks the corpse of a Latino laborer. As private eye Danny O’Brien (Danny Huston) investigates, making his way through the ugly tangle of the Pilager empire, the focus slowly shifts from the top of the city’s social structure to its lowest tier. Everyone’s interlocking drive, he finds, creates a stable society of mutual exploitation at the top and one-sided exploitation at the bottom. This character-first structure can’t stand without stellar actors, and Sayles makes sure to populate his fictional city with an all-star team of beloved favorites, with cameos from Tim Roth, Miguel Ferrer, and Thora Birch and a standout performance by Daryl Hannah, who stops the movie dead as a languorous, pot-smoking, bow-hunting Amazon. Unfortunately, for all its platinum residents and ambitious, fractal structure, the film has only the feel of a worthwhile cable original movie, lacking the grandeur that separates cinema from television. Pilager is a blatant avatar for a president whose name rhymes with “trouble you,” and while it must feel good to pummel an ersatz Bush, that’s not how great movies are made. Held to the higher standard of his past filmography, Silver City is an average outing from Sayles. Still, average Sayles is better than most.

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