'Collaborator' Review: Uneven First Film From Writer And Director Martin Donovan
Hostage dramas are no stranger to films—in fact, one of the stars of Collaborator has starred in one before.
In Collaborator, Robert Longfellow (Martin Donovan) is a famous playwright whose last few works haven’t been well received. In fact, his current one is so savaged by the critics that he retreats home to Los Angeles at his mother’s house, leaving his wife and two kids in New York.
After making a “date” to spend the night with an old flame (Olivia Williams), he winds up getting caught up in his childhood neighbor Gus’ (David Morse) orbit. Gus is an ex-con living at home with his mother after a recent prison stay for manslaughter. Knowing a SWAT team is coming for him soon, Gus invites himself over to Robert’s just as he’s the way out the door.
Robert think it is just going to be one beer and a bit of a smoke from a joint before Gus is on his way, but once the SWAT team shows up, Gus takes Robert hostage.
Over the course of the night, the news start to cover the event and Gus and Robert drink beers and even play some theater games. (You can assume the title Collaborator comes from how Gus and Robert are collaborating with each other in a variety of improve scenes.)
You might even start to think Robert will use the cover of improvisation to find a way out, even though a sense of danger is never felt in any of those scenes. Instead, the film winds up taking a left turn towards the end of the movie as Robert and Gus wind up debating political views, and among other things, the Vietnam War—seemingly out of nowhere.
Most disappointingly, the script doesn’t really go anywhere. The lead-up to the hostage taking also takes a little too long and while the performances are incredibly strong—especially by Donovan—there’s little pay-off in the end and some plot threads are even left strangling.
Donovan’s direction, however, is top notch as he smartly allows the camera to linger in long takes and doesn’t try anything flashy in a movie that should just be focused on the performances.
Collaborator is out on home video DVD for a retail price of $19.98.
* Disclosure: A copy of the film was provided by the studio for the purposes of this review. *