The latest from Hal Hartley sees the American cult filmmaker finally moving out of the suburban settings of his previous films and into the cityscape of the Big Apple. And while he has the advantage of a bigger budget than usual, there is thankfully no reduction in his imaginatively surreal romantic plotting or his ear for off-kilter dialogue.
The film begins with a brilliant conceit: a young guy (Donovan) wakes up in the street with a bad case of amnesia, wanders into a coffee shop and is taken under the wing of a mysterious older woman (Huppert) who claims to be a nymphomaniac. They go back to her place intending to make love, but somehow never get round to it. She's too busy escaping her past life as a nun by writing bad sex novels, while he is too wrapped up with his own past in the shape of pouting porno star (Lowensohn). And before they know it, they're caught up in a B-movie plot involving arms dealers from Amsterdam and end up hiding out in a convent.
If all this sounds faintly absurd, Hartley is well aware of it. He takes a wicked delight in deconstructing the mechanics of the Hollywood thriller as his characters dawdle their way through a series of over-familiar scenes - the chase, the getaway, the interrogation, the shoot-out - designed more as spectacular set-pieces than to drive the story forward. Consequently the film suffers from a flatness of tone and an absence of soul.