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City of Ghosts
City of Ghosts
Actors: Matt Dillon, James Caan, Natascha McElhone, Gérard Depardieu, Kem Sereyvuth
Director: Matt Dillon
Genres: Drama, Mystery & Suspense
R     2003     1hr 56min

There are places where your eyes deceive you, your thoughts betray you and desire can get you killed. Matt Dillon (Wild Things) makes his directorial debut and stars with James Caan (Misery), Natascha McElhone (Solaris), G...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Matt Dillon, James Caan, Natascha McElhone, Gérard Depardieu, Kem Sereyvuth
Director: Matt Dillon
Creators: Matt Dillon, Deepak Nayar, J.B. Meyer, Marc Sferrazza, Michael Cerenzie, Nicholas Simon, Barry Gifford
Genres: Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 10/28/2003
Original Release Date: 01/01/2003
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2003
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 1hr 56min
Screens: Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French

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Movie Reviews

Exotic, Atmospheric, and Sometimes Nihilistic Thriller
mirasreviews | McLean, VA USA | 11/03/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Jimmy (Matt Dillon) sold disaster insurance in New York until a federal investigation made it clear that his company was engaging in fraud, selling insurance with no intention of paying on claims. Jimmy knows where his boss, Marvin, can be found, and he travels to Cambodia to track him down. Marvin (James Caan) is laying low and working on his next business venture, trying to entice a powerful and corrupt Cambodian general to invest in a resort complex. A business associate of Marvin's, Kaspar (Stellan Skarsgard), may or may not be trying to help Jimmy, but is becoming increasingly anxious about getting his share of the loot from the insurance scam. The situation goes from uneasy to harrowing when the constant scheming and backstabbing of these Western con men becomes intertwined with the lawlessness of a post-war Cambodia. And it begins to look as if no one will come to a good end.If my description of this film's plot seems incoherent, it is because the story's complexity and sinuousness make it difficult to recount. "City of Ghosts" was co-written and directed by actor Matt Dillon, who also plays the lead role in the film. Dillon's inexperience at both writing and directing show in this film. He has chosen an especially complex piece of material to direct. Plus, he has co-written it with Barry Gifford, which makes it difficult to see flaws in the writing and correct them in his on-screen interpretation. The film is littered with cliched characters: Down-and-out Westerners hanging on in Southeast Asia, one a cripple, one a burly bartender (Gerard Depardieu), and a couple of junkies. A humble and loyal local man, Sok (Kem Sereyvuth), who aids our protagonist and provides the moral to our story. Jimmy, a man who thinks that he cannot be redeemed but seems to really want to be anyway. And there is a love interest (Natascha McElhone), whose sole purpose in the story is Jimmy's said redemption. "City of Ghosts" is heavy on atmosphere and convolution, but light on substance...usually. It has flashes of depth. The film's emotional climax is more of an anti-climax. That may actually be realistic, but it doesn't fare well on film. I'm giving this movie 4 stars because, in spite of its faults, it is very successful at certain things: The supporting performances of Stellan Skarsgard and James Caan are excellent. We see very little of "Marvin", but Caan embodies this man who has been driven by self-aggrandizement his whole life and who is perpetually one scam ahead of his many enemies. Caan only needs one scene to give us an understanding of Marvin's entire self-image. And I have to conclude that Stellan Skarsgard can play any character to perfection. "Kaspar" has a confused and confusing criminal disposition. He is desperate and unstable. He doesn't seem realistic. But Skarsgard lends him a palpable presence anyway. Jim Denault's cinematography is beautiful. Cambodia is picturesque, but I was most impressed and perplexed by Denault's masterful methods of dealing with the apparent lack of good light in many of the film's scenes. The most striking feature of "City of Ghosts" is its ability to generate the near-constant uneasiness that one feels when submersed in a culture very different from one's own: The feeling of slight panic that comes with realizing that the basic assumptions and value systems that underlie your understanding of the universe at home may not apply here. This is, of course, intensified when things start to go wrong. I've never seen a film that conveyed this emotion so authentically and consistently.So I'm recommending "City of Ghosts" for its excellent supporting performances, its cinematography, and its "uneasiness". Producing discomfort turns out to be a good thing in this case. Narratively, the film is flawed. If you're looking for a good story, this probably isn't it. But if you're willing to pick out the gems from among the clichés and misjudgments, I think "City of Ghosts" is worth the time. If Matt Dillon can retain the strengths of this film and learn from its faults, he has a future as a director.The DVD: Bonus features include a theatrical trailer and audio commentary by Matt Dillon and Barry Gifford, who is the film's co-writer. Subtitles are available in English, Spanish, and French. The audio commentary isn't bad, but the commentary I would have been most interested in in this case is the cinematographer's. It's unfortunate that he doesn't appear at all in the extras."
Matt Dillon was brilliant
Timothy D. Naegele | Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles | 08/05/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Having co-written the script and starred in the film, Matt Dillon was brilliant in his directorial debut with "City of Ghosts," which was filmed principally in Thailand and Cambodia. Surely, during the Academy Award-nominated actor's long and successful career, he will be recognized fully for his many talents. The movie was beautifully filmed, and the editing is terrific; and there was fine acting as always by James Caan, Natascha McElhone, Gérard Depardieu and Stellan Skarsgård--with wonderful supporting actors too, including Kem Sereyvuth (as "Sok") who had never acted before, but was a "natural" in Dillon's words.

Unlike so many films that have been shot on foreign locations, this one really allows the viewer to feel and absorb the locales and their seedy underbellies. Regrettably, after all of the work that went into this movie, its widest release in the States was 20 theaters, and its domestic gross was a mere $357,197. Nonetheless, it has offered Dillon the opportunity to showcase his talents, and to work with world-class actors in the process of doing so--which is a tribute to his professionalism. It is not every day that such talented ensemble cast members join in a risky undertaking like this, at least financially.

Dillon has the potential to become a fine and established director in the future, just as actors Clint Eastwood and Mel Gibson have done before him. His camera angles, his cuts, and the palette that he lays before his audience are both creative and sumptuous, to say the least. A wider audience should have seen "City of Ghosts" worldwide; however, DVDs and sources such as and Blockbuster Online allow this to happen today. Dillon should be immensely proud of what he accomplished with this film--and that comes across in his very interesting, wonderful and informative commentary with respect to how the film was made, which is included in the "Special Features" section of the DVD. Well worth listening to, and watching.

And finally, James Caan's karaoke singing is a joy to watch. He seems to add something special to every role that he plays."
Great Movie!
D. Rued | 03/30/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Its a shame when I don't see a movie for quite a while just because it doesn't get the respect it deserves. This is a great crime drama. Its no soft drama either, it will keep other types of viewers interested as well. A story about a group of individuals connected only through their criminal activities can only turn out violent. Just the amount of distrust being spread around is entertaining enough.
Of course there is one true friendship which developes and is quite endearing throughout the movie. Sort of a guardian angel type of relationship that feels rewarding amongst all the deceit.
And the locations are perfect, there couldn't have been a better place to have this story take place. Its like the frosting on the cake. You will want to see how it all comes together and who survives. Buy this movie, support well made films not just the ones Hollywood blows out it's arse."
How did I miss it in the theatres
Gabriel Villani | 10/20/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I thought this movie was excellant. I did not see it at any theatres in Florida but after renting it at Blockbuster I bought two copies, one for my girl friend and one for her daughter. I thought it was that good!

The plot and the action were fantasitc. I found out that this was Matt Dillon's first crack at directing. He did a wonderful job and he clearly falls in to the catagory of "great directors" and not just a pretty face any longer. I loved it!"