The Passenger

Rated PG-13 2005

Rumor has it this 1975 collaboration between writer-director Michelangelo Antonioni and star Jack Nicholson is a masterpiece of 1970s filmmaking. Problem is, it's better heard about than seen. Nicholson plays a journalist lost in Africa who assumes the identity of the dead man in the hotel room next door; next thing he knows, he's a gun-runner meeting all the wrong people in all the right places, which might be funny were this intended to be a comedy . . . or thriller . . . or something else besides an exercise in existential inertia. Its re-release couldn't be better timed: It reminds one of The Constant Gardener, another globetrotting thriller bereft of thrills that looks more important in retrospect than on the screen. Certainly, one man's trash is another man's masterpiece, and more power to the viewer who can stick with this deadpan travelogue and make it to the ending that actually satisfies. But despite the rare opportunity to see Nicholson low-key it through an entire picture, The Passenger can hitch a ride elsewhere.

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