The capitalist dream gets lost in the snow in Bernard Rose's dryly comic retelling of Tolstoy's 'Master And Man'.
British director and Tolstoy fanboy Bernard Rose does the two-blokes-in-a-car thing for his subtle evisceration of the capitalist dream. It's an extremely odd movie, a scraggy DV odyssey whose exterior cheapness cleverly chimes with the thoroughly rotten behavioural ethics of its two central protagonists.
Danny Huston's Basil is the type of guy who has forty maxed-out credit cards and thinks absolutely nothing of taking leave of his wife and kids at Christmas in order to make a swift financial killing. He even cons the local church group into diverting their refurbishment fund to his nefarious cause, which involves taking advantage of a tax loophole and buying up a portfolio of houses whose tenants have recently been evicted. He is a jackal. He is a succubus. And yet so, so charming.
Chauffeured around Denver and its snow-swept environs by a plump, imbecilic Englishman named Nick (Matthew Jacobs), this bitter black comedy revolves around the pair's circuitous (and often highly amusing) discussions regarding Basil's furtive, cross-country cash grab. The film's simple set-up operates perfectly as a universal allegory for greed and the idea that our thirst for personal wealth will nearly always be at the expense of some other unnamed, unseen soul.
Beyond its portentous central thesis, Boxing Day is also about male anxiety, and how the morals of a ruthless capitalist can quickly bleed over into other areas of life, such as family relations, what food you eat, how you treat the people you work with and how you act in extreme situations. Rose edits the banter sharply, often yielding big laughs by cutting away after one of Nick's idiotic non sequiturs.
It's sometimes a little too haphazard and meandering, and Huston is given too many overly academic and self-knowing monologues where he essentially speaks the film's themes to camera. But the film's biggest failing is its final 15 minutes, where the film (and the characters) take a daft U-turn and Rose really beings to rub out faces in the pair's utter human decrepitude.
The third collaboration Bernard Rose and Danny Huston is an update of Tolstoy's Master And Man.
Takes a bit of getting used to, but it's often very, very funny.
Lots to think about, but that final act is a real drag.