Review: Wrecked, 2011, dir. Michael Greenspan

I’d consider it a party foul if Michael Greenspan didn’t splurge on a high-end fruit basket for Adrien Brody once Wrecked, their 2011 attempt at aping 127 Hours, made it to post. Well-intentioned, and certainly lovely to look at, the director’s first feature-length effort lacks much of anything by way of that genre-essential trait, tension; it’s a slack film, one that sags almost from the opening ten minutes until the closing credits start to roll. With a less dedicated and talented actor serving as Wrecked‘s focus, I can’t imagine giving any recommendation to seek the movie out, but Brody puts so much of himself into his nameless amnesiac hero that it’s hard to wholly dismiss what’s ultimately a dramatically inert, by-the-numbers survival tale.

Wrecked revolves almost solely around Brody’s John Doe character, a man who wakes up in a crumpled and shattered car inexplicably smack-dab in the middle of a densely canopied forest. He lacks any semblance of personal identity; just by listening to radio broadcasts, he comes to conclude that he’s Raymond, a member of a bank robber trio and the last man alive in the group after performing a heist. He’s got nothing but corpses and the foreboding silence of nature for company– as well as the ghost of a young woman who may be a teller from the aforementioned bank, who stands by and watches with approval as the lone man’s sanity slips away. With death looming overhead, “Raymond” struggles to stay alive and make it to civilization.

There’s one catch– his leg’s trapped between the crushed glove compartment and his jammed door.

Unlike Danny Boyle’s smash hit true-to-life picture, Wrecked doesn’t end with Brody freeing himself and making it out of his situation sans a limb. It’s not a spoiler– Brody forces his way out of his makeshift prison within the first half hour or so of the narrative, and spends the rest of the movie dragging himself through the woods to find help and rescue. Normally I might let something like this slide, but Greenspan ends up answering the film’s initial query too quickly and doesn’t have a particularly interesting follow-up to sustain the inherent tension of the picture’s basic conceit.

To be totally clear, I’m not criticizing Wrecked for allowing Brody to roam around (well, crawl anyhow) for the bulk of its running time. The problem is that once he’s out, very little happens that’s exciting or capable of getting our pulses pounding. What really makes this into something of a snafu on Greenspan’s part is that he has an organic threat to raise the stakes for Brody’s character– during the early portions of the narrative,  he introduces the presence of a mountain lion which sneaks around in the dark of the night and consumes the remains of Brody’s partners in crime. But the beast makes limited appearances, and ends up disappearing for roughly half of the film until the climax; it’s hard to really be invested in a movie about a guy dragging himself through the woods aimlessly, and Wrecked doesn’t seize the chance to make Brody’s story into a real contest of survival of the fittest.

It’s a huge missed opportunity for the film. If not for Brody, Wrecked could just be summarized as a boring and pointless story of a man trying to survive in the wilderness, where the biggest obstacle to his continued existence appears to be frequent rain showers. There’s never a single encounter with another form of wildlife, save for a German Shepard that appears at the scene of the crash and accompanies Raymond on his journey; it doesn’t seem like there’s very much by way of danger for our protagonist to deal with, apart from his struggle to recover his memory and maybe find some food. Even that doesn’t translate as something life-threatening, and eventually Greenspan makes the impression on us that we need not fear for Raymond’s health and well-being, which is the opposite effect a movie of this sort should want to engender.

So with all that in mind, enormous and glowing praise must be directed at Brody for making Wrecked into something watchable. I don’t know if he sensed something personal in Raymond’s crisis that allowed him to identify with the character on an emotional level, or if he just found the idea of his plight to be completely gripping, but Brody dives into Wrecked headfirst and crafts a performance so outstanding as to whitewash the lesser aspect of the rest of the film. For the palpable lack of stakes, Brody makes his character’s ordeal compelling; he gravitates toward Raymond’s humanity and brings it to the surface effortlessly, leading us to empathize with him as he sees traces of his life– childhood memories of owning a dog or the comforting familiarity of a song heard over the radio– pass before his eyes.

But as good as Brody is, he’s also all that Wrecked has going for it. And even a talented actor giving his A-game can’t save a picture that’s bereft of all of the things that should be essential pieces of its core. I want to say that Greenspan, for his failure, had good intentions here but that would require some baseline understanding of what he meant to accomplish with his film in the first place. With no real drama pushing its plot forward, Wrecked doesn’t have much of a reason to exist– and therefore we have even less reason to watch it.

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11 thoughts on “Review: Wrecked, 2011, dir. Michael Greenspan

  1. Too bad that Brody has no goddamn idea what he should be doing with his career to get back on his feet. I don’t think he’s in a place where he can sustain a film by himself.

    • Too true. Best thing he’s done lately is appear in Midnight in Paris for five minutes, but that’s saying little. He’s a really talented actor– he gave this train wreck something worth talking about– but I feel like he’s got terrible agents handling him. Guy needs someone to really have his back.

  2. Great new layout Andrew, it fits your style a lot better.

    I never thought Brody would be one of those guys who ends up straight-to-DVD constantly. It’s a shame considering his talent.

    • Castor– thank you! I’ve gone through more designs in the two years of this blog’s life span than I can count on one hand (quite literally), so it’s nice to find something I think I can really settle on. Hopefully I don’t get tired of it like I did the last one.

      I’m a big Brody fan, too, but I have to say, the only reason I saw this was because it was free on Netflix Instant. Without that I don’t know that I’d have gone out of my way, even considering his prominence here.

      Fitz– that means a lot, so thanks. I’ve been trying to find a style that really suits me ever since I started this thing, so I’m glad that you guys seem to be responding positively to it.

      As to Brody, I can only say I agree, agree, and agree again. What a waste of an actor. He deserves better, but clearly his agent has some deep-seated grudge against him.

  3. Fine write up Andrew, I’m one of the few that I know that wasn’t bored to tears and as you say it’s because Brody ” dives into Wrecked headfirst and crafts a performance so outstanding as to whitewash the lesser aspect of the rest of the film”

    Well said, probably won’t see it again but it was worth my time…although it kind of was like him retooling his character from The Village at times:P Brody’s been growing on me and I particularly like his work in Dummy and The Brother’s Bloom.

    • I’m a big advocate for Brody, but I don’t see him making many good choices lately. Brothers Bloom is probably the last movie I remember seeing him in that I didn’t think was horrible (though I still didn’t love it). He’s got a lot to offer, I’m just waiting for him to break into the role that reminds everyone how great he is.

  4. I think I liked this film a bit more than you did. However, I do agree that Brody carried that movie and without him it wouldn’t be worth watching even on netflix streaming.
    As an aside do you think that German Shepard really existed or was it more along the lines of some sort native american animal spirit?

    • I might be a bit hard on it here– I’ve seen worse movies, both in general and in this particular release year– but it really felt slack and almost directionless. You’re absolutely right about Brody. Honestly, if nothing else, Wrecked deserves to exist because it lets him showcase his awesomeness, which I suppose is reason enough.

      As for the German Shepard– yeah, I think it was a hallucination of some kind. It’s close enough to being an animal spirit guide that I’m comfortable with that assessment.

  5. i like Adrien Brody. but honestly, i dont think he has the capability to control this movie. it’s almost “one actor, silent” movie, really hard one. he’s not that excellent yet.

    • You’re right. Great as Brody is here, he’s not so great that his performance morphs Wrecked into a must-see. That said I still think he’s on fire here and really deserves to be in better, more visible movies.

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