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  Three Businessmen Wise Guys
Year: 1998
Director: Alex Cox
Stars: Miguel Sandoval, Robert Wisdom, Alex Cox, Andrew Schofield, Isabel Ampudia
Genre: Comedy, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Bennie Reyes (Miguel Sandoval) is an American businessman who has arrived in Liverpool, Britain, as part of his job as an art dealer. He gets off the train and hauls his suitcases behind him, looking for the hotel, so the first thing he does when emerging from the station is hail a taxi. The driver takes him to the door of the hotel, which turns out to be mere yards away from where Bennie was picked up. He goes inside and catches the attention of the desk clerk (Andrew Schofield) who tells him that he has a better room for him than the one he has booked - one with a jacuzzi...

Three Businessmen was an absurdist comedy from Alex Cox, looking as if most of the budget went on buying aeroplane tickets for his cast and crew. He was actually in the cast himself, as one of the businessmen of the title, appropriately deadpan in the face of Bennie's excitability; as Frank King he provides the art dealer with a companion as they wander the city streets in search of sustenance. They meet in the hotel restaurant, and in the manner of the film The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, directed by one of Cox's heroes, Luis Buñuel, they find it extremely difficult to get served, although they do get to eat eventually.

Cox evidently has affection not only for his lost characters but for the cities he chose to film in, reaching some kind of conclusion that many of them are interchangeable after dark, or at least the two wanderers cannot fathom the difference between Liverpool, which is where they believe themselves to be for the duration, or Rotterdam, Hong Kong and Tokyo. And it's true, funnily enough if it wasn't for the different languages on the street signs they do begin to look similar, so that if you did not notice the trick Cox was employing at first you might be forgiven for thinking they were in Liverpool all along - if indeed it does have a Japanese district.

This is not simply the camera following two actors around as they lose their bearings, however, although that's almost what it is, as there's a little joke going on here, the punchline of which is only revealed at the end, complete with groaning puns that nevertheless raise a laugh. But there is conversation too, and although you get the impression that Frank is none too bothered whether he is accompanied by Bennie or not, the American has latched onto him like a puppy, and his near-constant stream of chit-chat provides some twists and turns in logic and fact, parts of which might well be true, and others which may well be not to be taken seriously.

Three Businessmen was scripted by Tod Davies, an occasional collaborator with Cox, and each time you think the plot is about to disappear up its own randomness, it will recover with a smart line, observation or bizarre turn of events. So through the night during which this takes place, Bennie will have a panic attack at the sight of too much food (!) or demand a closed restaurant serve him only to get bowls of plastic comestibles for display purposes instead. This could have come across as utterly inscrutable, but when it all builds up to a Christmassy conclusion you can see that it was all in fun, and the late night mood means this is the ideal movie to relax to at the end of the evening whether it's the festive season or not. Oh, and there is a third businessman, he's played by Robert Wisdom and turns up near the grand finale. Music by Pray for Rain.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Alex Cox  (1954 - )

Maverick British writer/director who made a huge impact with his LA-set 1984 debut, the offbeat sci-fi comedy Repo Man. Sid and Nancy was a powerful second film, detailing the life and death of Sex Pistol Sid Vicious, while Straight To Hell was a flawed but amusing punk western starring The Clash. The expensive flop Walker kept Cox away from the camera for five years - he returned in 1992 with under-rated Spanish-language Highway Patrolman.

Since then, Cox has made a series of low-budget, independent features, such as Three Businessmen, 2002's The Revenger's Tragedy, Searchers 2.0 and sort of follow up Repo Chick, plus the Akira Kurosawa documentary The Last Emperor. British viewers will know Cox as the host of BBC2's '90s cult film show Moviedrome, and he has also penned a guide to Spaghetti Westerns.

 
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