March 7, 2014 at 1:00 am

Tom Long

Review: Kooky characters, gunplay can't save 'The Bag Man'

John Cusack stars as Jack, an associate of a high-level gangster, who is hired to do a job in 'The Bag Man.' (Cinedigm)

It must be of some comfort to Quentin Tarantino that people are still reaching for his style and attitude after all these years.

They’re mostly failing, of course, but even bad attempts are salutes of a sort.

The latest QT wannabe is “The Bag Man,” a noirish kill fest stocked with offbeat characters, lots of gunplay, unlikely plot turns and a lavishly coiffed Robert De Niro.

De Niro plays Dragna, a high-level gangster who hires Jack (John Cusack), an associate, to pick up a bag and deliver it to a seedy motel in the middle of nowhere. Jack will be paid good money for this, but he doesn’t know what’s in the bag and must not look in the bag.

Things go bad at the pick-up, and Jack ends up with a dead body in the trunk of his car and a hand with a bullet hole. He goes to the motel anyway, where he encounters a weird desk clerk (Crispin Glover) in a wheelchair and checks himself into room 13 (seriously).

Next he encounters, while walking through the parking lot, a statuesque hooker with blue hair (Rebecca Da Costa), a Russian dwarf (Martin Klebba) and a pimp with an eye-patch (Kirk “Sticky Fingaz” Jones). Sure he does. Obviously.

Jack ends up reluctantly teaming with the hooker and killing a wide variety of folks while protecting the bag. Eventually Dragna shows up to claim his luggage, but you know nothing’s going to go smoothly in a movie like this.

Director and co-writer David Grovic doesn’t have the sure touch needed to pull off such outlandish material (let’s face it, few do) and much of the bloodletting seems like improbable filler. Quentin, your replacement is hardly imminent.

'The Bag Man'

GRADE: D

Rated R for violence, sexual content and language

Running time: 108 minutes

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