FBI agent Skinner is called in to investigate at a ramshackle hotel in the near future, as one of whose permanent residents has mysteriously dropped off the roof and finds the other inhabitants all dizzyingly unhinged.
Glance at the set-up - Mel Gibson, sleek and fashionable Milla Jovovich, wimpy Corporal Upham from Saving Private Ryan and a story (and soundtrack) by U2 frontman Bono, in a "whodunnit?" based in a near-future rundown LA - and this sounds like a hip but big-scale sci-fi thriller. This, though, is Wim Wenders. And the absorbing but distinctly flawed The Million Dollar Hotel is a real oddity, carrying more of a Euro arthouse vibe than Gibbo does Blade Runner.
Mind you, it does boast the most ambiguous and refreshing Gibson performance for an age of impossible smartarse mugging. He plays weird FBI agent Skinner, whose chrome neck brace, robotic walk and ambivalent morals throw doubt onto whether he's a human at all. Then the humans he is called into investigate at the ramshackle hotel in question, one of whose permanent residents has mysteriously dropped off the roof, are to a person dizzyingly unhinged. The protagonist/narrator Tom Tom (Davies) is a skateboarding simpleton; the object of his affection is ultra-shy book freak Eloise (Jovovich). And behind this cuckoo duo, the hotel is populated by a coterie of oddballs.
His story, though, is far too vague, suspenseless and overstuffed with pointless sub-plots to catch hold, and this disparate collection of personnel seem to be acting in entirely different films from one another. What intrigues is the rich layer of ambiguity surrounding the dissolute hotel: is Tom Tom really such an idiot? Does Eloise really fall for him? Was there really a murder at all? And who or what is Agent Skinner?
Wenders shoots it with his typical eye for architectural beauty, lending the romantic sequences room and reality to be genuinely touching, while the soundtrack is a yearning and delicate Bono at his best. All round it's a fascinating failure whose appeal may be slight, but there are many more original and exciting pleasures to be discovered in among its awkwardness than in a host of dumb big gun movies. Be both warned and encouraged.
Ultimately flawed but curiously captivating to those who are fond of the slightly bizarre.