Main cast: Brendan Fraser (Paul), Mos Def (Wemba), Alice Braga (Monique), Catalina Sandino Moreno (Angie), Ruy Polanah (The Soothsayer), Matheus Nachtergaele (Nazda), Gilson Adalberto Gomes (Samy), and Scott Glenn (Rosso)
Director: Eric Eason
Journey to the End of the Night is a bleak drama set in the seedy slums of São Paolo. On the surface, things seem simple. The displaced American Rosso runs a club-cum-brothel along with his son Paul. They have connections with various criminal factions in that town. When a client dies in the club and leaves behind a big brief case full of drugs, Rosso decides to sell it to the friendly neighborhood drug dealer. His friend, known as the Soothsayer, is not keen on Rosso’s decision, but Paul, who gambles too much and too heavily for his own good, approves as his cut will allow him to pay off his debts.
Things go wrong when the designated runner dies after a shag with the resident tranny, just before the drugs are supposed to be delivered. In a panic, Rosso sends the dishwasher Wemba to make the delivery, but Wemba soon encounters some thugs and is delayed in bringing back the money to Rosso and Paul. And this is when paranoia begins to emerge to tear the two apart. Rosso and Paul are not on good terms, for reasons that will be revealed as the movie progresses, and what was previously scowls and dark looks at each other turn into outright violence when Paul suspects Rosso of double-crossing him.
Taking place in only one night, this movie is supposed to… I don’t know, make a statement about people suck, I guess. This is because Wemba and the woman he encounters during his exciting night out, Monique, are the only halfway likable characters here, and Wemba comes dangerously close to being a one-dimensional Noble Negro in a sea of Nasty White People stereotypes here. He’s so loyal and saintly, not even wanting to run away with the money he is carrying… is this guy for real? Perhaps the script wants someone that I can root for in this movie, but Wemba is too much like a cartoon saint to be believable.
Rosso and Paul are pretty nasty types – which makes sense, as they managed to stay afloat all this while in the grimy criminal underground of the city. Each man has a vulnerable aspect of his personality that makes them somewhat sympathetic, especially Paul’s, but it’s hard to root for them. But even when they are unlikable types, it’s not satisfying to see them fall apart either, as at the end of the day, they seem like assholes who are probably human like everyone else. Brendan Fraser plays his role in a borderline ham manner that somehow manages to work, as Paul is an emotionally unstable man slowly breaking down, while Scott Glenn gives Russo a more dignified vibe, and these two play each other off well.
Angie, the woman that comes between these two men, however is too stupid to be worth rooting for. Come to think of it, the female characters in this movie are very weakly developed, as they exist solely as pretty props to bring out the vulnerable moments in the male characters.
Ultimately, Journey to the End of the Night could have been a good movie if there had been stronger characters to bring out the best and the worst from Paul and Rosso. These two are the most realistically flawed characters in this movie, but they are in a movie surrounded by one-dimensional caricatures and stereotypes. The two of them are not strong enough to carry this movie on their own. File this one under missed opportunities.