Columbus

Not even John Cho could save “Columbus” from the curse of slow development and poor writing.

Courtesy Photo

Every year, a handful of films are difficult to watch due to a trio of fateful missteps. A common denominator of these dreadful storylines is that they contain toothless scripts with no ability to bite and hold viewers’ attention. Lackluster plots on paper can’t even be saved by excellent actors and actresses putting their full weight behind the doldrums of uninspired dialogue.  A great journey of words from a compelling script can overcome bad acting, but Academy Award-worthy performances can’t pull a poor narrative across the finish line to big screen excellence…even with spectacular cinematography. Unfortunately, the directorial debut of video critic Kogonada fails in each of these categories.

Set in Columbus, Indiana, the self-proclaimed hotspot to modern building architecture, this story starts off at a mind-numbing pace and, yet, somehow gets even slower the rest of the way. “Star Trek” (2009) helmsman John Cho portrays the 35-year old son to an urban modernist taken ill before a speech to his architect followers. The sad, largely toxic relationship between Cho’s “Jin” character and his dying Korean father never registers on the Care Meter because enough screen time isn’t devoted to them—only the byproducts of the elder’s vision upon the skyline.

Another proven young star, Haley Lu Richardson from last year’s successful “The Edge of Seventeen” and “The Bronze” twin billets, plays a high school graduate holding back on a chance to follow her dreams to stay in Columbus with her recovering drug addict mother. Like Cho, Richardson’s screen talents never emerge thanks to a low energy script that at times felt like some scenes might have been filmed on the fly, sans any direction or words given out ahead of “Action!” Together, Cho and Richardson pose as tour guides for art symbols…but the distinctness of Columbus’ modern trophies isn’t nearly as great as the film implies. Most cities and towns have iconic features with powerful stories behind them. 

If there was ever a movie that needed a clown holding a red balloon below a sewer grate, this was it. Between the extremely long film shots and painful periods of random nothingness in found awkwardly quiet scenes, “Columbus” wastes precious movie minutes with self-injected boredom. Watching Richardson’s Casey silently make a sandwich in her kitchen capped a dozen like moments of shear madness in production. It makes one wonder just how bad the scenes which ended up on the cutting room floor must have been. 

The rapid-fire distribution of cigarettes handed out between Cho and Richardson made me wonder if “Columbus” was just an infomercial for the nicotine industry. You can find fewer smokes puffed in Vietnam combat movies. 

The agony of “Columbus” brings immediate thoughts of gargling shards of glass. Despite two established movie faces, a dry script and story implodes this film’s structure…so stand back. Way back!

Grade: F

Patrick King is a resident of Tucson and writer for the REEL BRIEF movie blog at www.reelbrief.com.  You may email him at reelbriefmoviereviews@mail.com.

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