DURANT’S NEVER CLOSES

PrintE-mail Written by John Townsend

In the 1950’s, part-time gambler and aspiring baseball pitcher Jack Durant opened what would become one of the most infamous restaurants in America. With its home in Phoenix, Durant’s became renowned not only for its steaks and Martinis but also for its eclectic clientele. Movie stars such as Burt Reynolds and John Wayne lounged in the distinctive red leather booths while the noted discretion of the house allegedly allowed shadowy deals and discussions to take place between less salubrious drinkers. For the majority of people, the name Jack Durant will be unfamiliar. Sadly, after Travis Mills’ film Durant’s Never Closes that will likely remain the case

Filmed as a reminiscence rather than a standard biopic, Mills’ film focusses on several key times in the life of Durant (Sizemore) through the use of flashbacks. In doing so, Mills tries to uncover the motivations and musings of a man once dubbed by the FBI to be among the most dangerous in Phoenix, but who few really knew. A life successful in business but wasted in private is revealed superficially as characters’ flit in and out of the story, but only ex-wife Suzie (Stafford) is afforded any real depth. Scenes play out interestingly at first before drifting languorously towards a conclusion that always feels hurried, as if the camera is embarrassed to be still rolling when no-one shouted ‘cut’.

The editing and script also feel rushed and haphazard, with the timeline often difficult to follow and some sections of dialogue awkwardly forced. What holds the film together is the central performance of Sizemore, with his only support coming from the emotionally raw Stafford. At times, terrifyingly psychotic; at others almost bumbling and incompetent, Sizemore inhabits Durant with conviction and style and reminds you how accomplished an actor he can be. The exchanges with Stafford are the heart of the film and come closest to scratching beneath the surface of the characters, albeit only too briefly.

As a story of one of the most mysterious characters in American history Durant’s Never Closes never quite delivers on the promise of its subject. At worst plodding and slow, with curious tonal shifts, it is a film that feels stretched beyond the boundaries of its premise. At its occasional best, it is an eye-catching one man show; with its previous life as a play evident in some of Sizemore’s most impressive moments. More than anything it just feels like a missed opportunity, but perhaps, in the end, just too little is really known about Jack Durant.

DURANT’S NEVER CLOSES / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: TRAVIS MILLS / STARRING: TOM SIZEMORE, MICHELLE STAFFORD, PETER BOGDANOVICH, JON GRIES / RELEASE DATE: JANUARY 22ND (US) TBC (UK)

Expected Rating: 6 out of 10

Actual Rating:

 


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