As a cinematographer, if you happen to spend the majority of your profession capturing elegant big-budget productions for Hollywood heavyweights, it’s conceivable that you just may sometimes get a B-movie hankering: Even connoisseur cooks crave the sloppy pleasures of a Big Mac at times. Janusz Kaminski will get the urge hardly ever, it appears, however when it strikes, he takes to the director’s chair. Back in 2000, Steven Spielberg’s trusty DP made an ignominious helming debut with “Lost Souls,” an incoherent occult horror that wasn’t even the tasty type of trash. Two a long time later, issues haven’t overly improved with “American Dream,” the noble-sounding title of which does little to dignify the dingy exploitation train lurking beneath: a thriller by which the American pursuit of happiness isn’t any match for the dogged chase given by ticked-off Russian mobsters.
The relative novelty of Kaminski’s attachment on this capability superficially distinguishes “American Dream” from equal grey bales of VOD filler, as does the lingering clout of erstwhile “Game of Thrones” star Michiel Huisman — gritting his enamel and looking for some human contact in a scuffed, sweaty tangle of style tropes. Their names, nonetheless, scarcely render the venture much less nameless. The drabness extends, most mystifyingly, to the smoggy aesthetic that Kaminski and his personal cinematographer Keith Dunkerley have devised for proceedings: If there’s some taste of the Los Angeles underbelly in its arduous lighting and tan-on-brown palette, the movie’s standard-issue framing and odd, yanking stabs of handheld motion wouldn’t lower a lot ice with Kaminski’s typical collaborators.
In the early going, at the very least, a lean screenplay by Duncan Brantley (“Leatherheads”) and Mark Wheaton gives glimmers of curiosity in its portrayal of Russian-American immigrant society working towards larger social and financial standing throughout a number of generations — although these cultural specifics ultimately give method to extra generic surges of violent machismo. The movie opens in Russia, with a gratuitously ugly prologue introducing cautious younger prepare passenger Ana (Agnieszka Grochowska), as she’s dragged from her carriage and sexually assaulted by two unnamed thugs.
Cut to 5 years later, and Ana has relocated to L.A., solely to change into, for her pains, a secondary determine in her boyfriend’s narrative: It’s not the final time, nonetheless, that her or one other lady’s victimhood will shuffle the lads’s story alongside. She’s relationship Nicky (Huisman), a clean-cut property developer within the technique of constructing an condominium advanced along with his greatest pal Scott (Luke Bracey). Both Americanized sons of hard-working Russian migrants, they collectively make for a good-looking incarnation of the titular ultimate — or would do, in the event that they weren’t $700,000 brief on funds, and unable to persuade financial institution managers to assist them out. Enter Yuri, an inquisitive wheeler-dealer they encounter at a neighborhood wedding ceremony, and the type you’d know to offer a large berth even when he weren’t performed by an oil-slicked Nick Stahl, with a psychotic leer seen from area.
When Yuri arranges for a seamy Bratva elder handy over the cash with nary a query requested, Nicky and Scott cautiously settle for; when extra above-board financing turns up, nonetheless, they cease the verify. Turns out Yuri reacts to a canceled cope with a lot the identical good grace that Alex Forrest accepted being ghosted in “Fatal Attraction”: Within days, the hapless entrepreneurs’ enterprise, relationships and lives are on the road, as Yuri’s vengeful threats escalate in urgency and derangement. Embracing the mealy clichés of the script with open, tattooed arms, Stahl offers good loopy, however his wholly illogical character turns the dial from zero to well beyond 11 so rapidly as to empty proceedings of pressure altogether: Even in a thin 84 minutes,