Two things are made abundantly clear by The Bag Man: Hollywood has completely forgotten how to best utilize John Cusack, and Robert De Niro can still be entertainingly menacing if given peculiar material to work with.
Alas, listening to De Niro’s criminal bigwig Dragna casually describe how he was motivated to take up his underworld profession by an episode of Full House isn’t enough to salvage David Grovic’s dreary directorial debut.
An opaquely plotted thriller with murky visuals to match, the film concerns disheveled hired gun Jack (Cusack), who’s ordered by Dragna to retrieve a mysterious bag (which he can’t look inside of) and deliver it to him at a Louisiana motel, where everyone from the weirdo wheelchair-bound manager (Crispin Glover) to an eye-patched pimp and sadistic sheriff (Dominic Purcell) wants him dead.
While fending off these profanely grating psychos, Jack gets caught up with a stunning six-foot-tall hooker (Rebecca Da Costa) he’s not sure he can trust.
The trouble is that Grovic’s attempts to generate suspense by keeping character identities and motivations unknown leaves the proceedings feeling vague and slapdash. Cusack may do frazzled-everyman cool better than most, but it’d be best if he stopped taking faux-noir tough guy roles that involve a Serbian little person peeing in his face.