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Film review: Music best part of tedious 'Lost City'

Published: Friday, July 14 2006 12:00 a.m. MDT

THE LOST CITY — ** — Andy Garcia, Ines Sastre, Bill Murray; rated R (violence, brief gore).

"The Lost City" was shot largely in the Dominican Republic rather than where the story is set, in Cuba. That decision had as much to do with the restrictive policies of the Cuban government and some of the film's more inflammatory subject matter as it did with any budgetary concerns.

Still, actor-turned-filmmaker Andy Garcia has paid attention to detail and done everything in his power to make his movie look and feel as authentic as possible.

Would that he had spent as much time on the story.

While the soundtrack of Cuban dance music is superb, this historical drama is leaden and simply too long-winded for its own good. You could easily snip 30 minutes and the film would be better for it.

Garcia directed and stars as Fico Fellove, a wealthy Havana nightclub owner who is on hand to witness the most turbulent period in his country's history, the Cuban Revolution in the late 1950s. Fico has been trying to stay out of the fighting, but his younger brothers are much more involved.

One brother, Luis (Nestor Carbonell) becomes a revolutionary and is killed for standing up for his beliefs. As a result, Fico comforts and eventually falls in love with Luis' beautiful widow, Aurora (model-turned-actress Ines Sastre), who has her own allegiances.

Garcia allegedly rewrote much of the screenplay, which is credited to the late Cuban author Guillermo Cabrera Infante. He also takes on the central role but almost seems distracted and aloof. He's bland to the point of being wooden.

And Garcia the director makes the mistake of dispatching the most interesting character — Carbonell's fiery, feisty Luis — far too early in the movie.

Bill Murray shows up whenever the film needs a laugh — and it desperately needs humor to break up the tedium — stealing a couple of scenes as an unnamed American writer. But a cameo by Dustin Hoffman as famed gangster Meyer Lansky feels more like it was added simply to increase the film's celebrity cachet, rather than actually adding something to the story.

"The Lost City" is rated R for some strong violence (including shootings and some explosive mayhem), as well as some brief gore. Running time: 143 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com

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