Matt Dillon's directorial debut was actually a nice thriller, but he needs to refine his writing and dialogue.
City of Ghosts
Directors: Matt Dillon
Producers: Willi Baer, Michael Cerenzie, Deepak Nayar
Writers: Matt Dillon, Barry Gifford
Features: 16x9 Widescreen (Aspect Ratio 1.85:1); Audio: 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround; Subtitles: English, French, Spanish; Audio Commentary by Matt Dillon and co-writer Barry Gifford; Soundtrack Spot; Original theatrical trailer
Jimmy - Matt Dillon
Marvin - James Caan
Sophie - Natascha McElhone
Emile - Gerard Depardieu
Kaspar - Stellan Skarsgard
Sok - Kem Sereyvuth
"City of Ghosts" took six years to finally bring to the silver screen, but Matt Dillon's directorial debut was a winner. While it is not the most engaging performance he has made as an actor, you can see that as a director, he has a good eye for making a film. There was a lot of unique style in how he filmed the movie, and he was able to assemble a talented cast to tell his story. I found his dialogue to be a little cliched at times, but for the most part, the screenplay he wrote was entertaining.
MGM did not give the DVD a lot of features though. Besides the commentary, soundtrack spot, and original theatrical trailer, there really isn't anything else. The picture was fairly crisp and I noticed very few artifacts. There was one part where the transition from scene to scene was extremely choppy, and coincided with a layer transfer that made the effect worse. I thought that maybe the disc had skipped, but it was just a bad layer transfer. The sound was rich, with a nice variety of ambient sounds. Also, the soundtrack was amazing, and fit nicely with the movie. You'll find that the songs stay with you even after you are done seeing the film.
"Ghosts" deals with Jimmy (Dillon - "Wild Things") being caught up in an insurance scandal. The FBI is investigating him, but can't pin anything on him. Instead, he goes off to Cambodia to search for his mentor, Marvin (Caan - "Misery"). Marvin brings Jimmy in on a deal to build a casino in Cambodia, but danger follows Jimmy when there are people out to kill him and Marvin. It is up to Jimmy to figure out why their lives are in peril, in a country where alliances shift and it is hard to trust anyone.
I was pleased with the performances from the cast and also with the story. There was a fantastic performance from Gerard Depardieu, the hotel manager. Depardieu has let himself go, though, in this case, it fit the role perfectly. Skarsgard plays the shifty partner perfectly, while McElhone is great as the love interest for Dillon. The real winner of the film is the cinematographer Jim Denault, who does an awesome job of capturing the beauty and mystery of both Thailand and Cambodia. I was blown away at some of the scenes that were filmed.
All in all, I would give "City of Ghosts" a three and a half star rating out of five stars. Dillon should refine his writing skills, but his directing seems to be on the right track. I look forward to seeing any future films he puts out. The features on this film are lacking, though the commentary is worth checking out. While I usually get annoyed with actors doing the commentaries, because they never discuss important things on the film, Dillon knows his film pretty well. Since there are so few features, I probably wouldn't recommend owning the film, but you might rent it to see if it's something you would like to add to your collection.