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The Baltimore Sun

The Price of Air


Friday November 3, 2000

     For his third independent feature, "The Price of Air," writer-director Josh Evans expands his vision but at a loss of impact. Whereas his first two films, "Inside the Goldmine" (1994) and "Glam" (1997), were harrowingly personal, this film ventures from a strong core relationship to a conventional crime plot that does not play out as effectively as it might.
     Evans goes for a finish that demands a tone of dark irony or absurdist humor to keep it from seeming either too easy or merely preposterous; instead, he plays it too dead-on. Evans is no less promising a talent for the drawbacks of this film, but simply has yet to learn how to incorporate the generic within the personal imaginatively.
     Evans begins with a fusillade of fragmented moments that more or less connect eventually. Evans also stars, giving a persuasive portrayal as the naive but likable slacker, Paul, whose streetwise best pal D (Sticky Fingaz) is wary of him agreeing to serve as a courier for the crooked Mr. Ball (Michael Madsen). D is to deliver Mr. Ball a new drug, sniffed like cocaine but said to be "more addictive than air."
     Not surprisingly, things go disastrously wrong, with Paul ending up on the lam with a young woman (Charis Michelsen) with whom he has a romantic idyll in the desert and in Las Vegas, where they feel they must return to face the music. They are ill-equipped for any sort of confrontation, despite being strengthened by their evident love for each other, but fate plays into their hands with extraordinary, indeed, awesome generosity.
     Evans' plotting is virtually free of exposition, he's fearless in his use of coincidence, and remains a wry commentator on L.A. angst and excesses. He gets high-energy performances from his cast, but Madsen's bad guy and Michelle Phillips and Dick Van Patten as a couple as rich as they are corrupt need to come across as more distinctive individuals in order to engage our interest.
     The score by Goldie, with additional music from Sticky Fingaz, Seal, Eve and the Butterfly Species is rich and atmospheric--as stylish as Evans' direction. "The Price of Air," smartly shot in digital and transferred to 35 mm, suggests that Evans needs more seasoning to make genre conventions and characters work for him rather than against him.

The Price of Air, 2000. Unrated. An Artistic License Films release. Writer-director Josh Evans. Producers Zachary Matz, Thomas Garvin, Michael Madsen. Executive producers Lauren Wild, Lisa Larrivee. Cinematographer Rufus Standefer. Editor Sabine El Chamaa, Fritz Feick. Music Goldie. Costumes Jacqueline Aronson. Production designer Karin Haase. Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes. Josh Evans as Paul. Charis Michelsen as Anne. Michael Madsen as Mr. Ball. Dick Van Patten as Mr. Rye. Michelle Phillips as Mrs. Rye. Sticky Fingaz as D.

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