The Air I Breathe
The Air I Breathe is
trying to be a really profound look at life and death on the mean streets,
but it never quite escapes a desperate air of Tarantino-lite.
You recognize that need for
deepness immediately in this film of four interlocking vignettes. The
main characters are ironically named after emotions in a Chinese proverb -
Happiness, Pleasure, Sorrow and Love. (Ugh, yeah I know, can we say
The first story is that of
Happiness (Forest Whitaker), a repressed stockbroker who hates his boring
job and life. He sees a chance out of his torpor when he overhears a
co-worker discussing a fixed horse race. He goes down to a seedy
bookie joint and bets way more than he can afford - and loses. He is
threatened by Fingers (Andy Garcia) the tough gangster who owns the joint.
Out of desperation he decides to rob a bank to make the money - and in
trying to evade the police finally finds the excitement he has been craving.
The second vignette is
about Finger's chief leg-breaker, Pleasure (Brendan Fraser). Pleasure
has been able to get quick glimpses of the future since he was a child,
which has made him able to win any fight he is in. However, he also
sees it as a curse - by seeing the future he is beholden to it.
Therefore he has deadened himself to all emotions, because he feels that
life is inevitable and he can't do anything to change it. When
Fingers' ne'er-do-well nephew (Emile Hirsch) comes to visit, Fingers asks
him to take him out and show him the ropes. The kid is a loose cannon
and Pleasure spends most of the night keeping him out of trouble.
Then, for the first time in his life, Pleasure's power fails him, putting
him in danger at the same time as it releases him from the responsibility of
always knowing what is coming.
Pleasure also plays a
significant role in the third tale, that of Sorrow (Sarah Michelle Gellar).
Sorrow is a rising pop star who is miserable in the spotlight. When
her manager gets deeply into debt with Fingers, he signs away the rights to
the singer to the gangster. She tries to escape the clutches of the
mobster, and ends up losing the man she loves as she tries to gain her
Finally there is Love
(Kevin Bacon), a doctor who has been enamored with the same woman since Med
School, a research scientist (Julie Delpy). The problem is, she is
married to his best friend (Clark Gregg). When she is in danger of
dying after being bitten by a venomous snake, Love will do anything in his
power to get a transfusion of the scientist's extremely rare blood type.
There is a lot of good
intention and love brought to the filming of The Air That I Breathe -
and I do know this for a fact, I am friends with one of the significant crew
members who made the film - so you want to give the film the benefit of the
The Air That I Breathe
has very some good moments and some surprisingly strong acting -
Fraser's emotionally cut-off enforcer is particularly good. It has
some really moody visuals and some legitimately shocking twists.
However, it relies just too much on unlikely coincidences and stupid
mistakes to completely buy into. I know that was probably the point
that first-time director Jieho Lee was trying to get across - that in the
end life is nothing but a series of random and tragic circumstances.
This may even be true, but it doesn't necessarily make for satisfying
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: July 19, 2008.