Robert Pattinson stars in this David Cronenberg oddity as Eric Packer, a genius billionaire currency trader riding through the city in a limousine in search of a haircut. Based on perhaps one of the weaker novels by postmodern author Don Delillo, its episodic narrative features long scenes of portentous dialogue as Packer muses philosophically, and often bafflingly, about the nature of 21st century capitalism with his assistants, has cold, almost academic sex with many of them (but not, to his frustration, with his rich and beautiful new wife) and becomes increasingly paranoid about the "credible threat" his security chief says is stalking him.
Cronenberg's screenplay stays very faithful to the dialogue in the novel, in which nothing happens aside from a series of vignettes including the funeral of a rapper and some "occupy" type protestors hurling rats into restaurants. The idea of a capitalist navel-gazing while Rome burns outside was impressively prescient when the novel was published in 2003.
For Packer, the outside is closing in as he starts losing millions per second in failed currency speculation.
The tone is muted and weird throughout; its weirdness heightened by the eerie blue glow of Packer's gadgets and by the lack of any sound apart from dialogue during the scenes in the limo, despite the apparent violence and chaos outside it.
So what attracted Canada's celebrated "body horror" director to adapt a novel about the unreality of money in a globalised hyper-capitalist world? Perhaps it was all that dialogue about the future overcoming the present and the violence of capitalism -reminiscent of that VHS tape inserted into the abdomen in videodrome (1983). Perhaps it was the amoral blankness of the main character.
Pattinson, perhaps still a bit youthful to play a billionaire trader, is rather good with a blank semi-sneer throughout and this is also worth watching for a gloriously lascivious Juliette Binoche as one of Packer's casual sex friends.
While not necessarily the perfect match of director and source material, this is intriguing and boring at once, the same contradiction as the novel.