Do Not Disturb

Don't be perturbed. Those of you who like chase scenes will love this movie. No need to say, "cut to the chase," because that's where you'll be, from beginning to end. It could almost be considered an English-language sequel to "Amsterdamned," the 1988 Dutch-language hit. It could also well be the jumping off point for director Dick Maas into the realm of Hollywood. Is he soon to become the fourth Dutch directorial name on American lips? He has previously graced smaller American screens with his direction for Lucasfilm Ltd. of the last episode from the TV series "Young Indiana Jones Chronicles". The third millennium will also be see a brand new English language filming of the former Dutch language hit "De Lift," which one can only assume will now be called "The Elevator". Whether or not Mr. Maas is on his way up can only be decided once the stateside reviews are in.

But now to the film at hand: a cheerful ten-year-old girl named Melissa (Francesca Brown), who is physically challenged (inasmuch as she cannot speak), arrives in Amsterdam with her parents Walter (William Hurt) and Catherine (Jennifer Tilly). Upon arrival at the Hotel de L'Europe the group is unexpectedly confronted with the crowds and consternation surrounding the semi-punk, semi-glamrock star Billy Boy Manson (a kind of mixture between Marilyn Manson and Alice Cooper), who has booked into the same hotel. (Such street scenes are reminiscent of the havoc created a couple of years by crazed fans paying vigil hoping to get a glimpse of Michael Jackson during his short stay at Amsterdam's Grand Hotel.)

Walter, executive at a pharmaceutical firm, has come to the Dutch capital to meet with a representative from another company and close a business deal. Comments are passed concerning the decadent lifestyle of this notorious city. A hotel representative who promises the parents that he will keep a watchful eye on the girl accompanies Melissa to the toilet facilities. This seems to be thought necessary because of the crowds and confusion surrounding the rock star. The girl manages, however, to exit the toilet completely unnoticed by her companion and wanders, as such inquisitive girls are prone to do, through the kitchen and out onto the boardwalk terrace of the hotel. No longer able to return through the automatically locked door, she ventures into the backlot and accidentally witnesses a murder. She hasn't gone unnoticed, however, either by the victim or the two perpetrators and so the hunt is on.

Mommy is not very happy with the hotel's inefficient bodyguard. She wants to know where her darling has disappeared. Daddy is also disturbed, but not too perturbed. Daddy manages to keep his cool, no matter what happens. The parents realize they must do their utmost to find their little girl, who obviously can't cry out for help. In the meantime, Walter must also manage to take care of his business affairs. He doesn't seem too perturbed by this either. As a man, he must, naturally, keep matters under control.

All seems to be well when they hear that the police have found their girl as the result of a car crash. The parents retrieve her with a word of caution about such behavior in this big bad city of drugs and sex and god knows what else. They return to the hotel where father hopes to have a nice meal and complete his business. When Mr. Hartman (Michael Chiklis) arrives, we recognize him as one of the two killers. The business, as far as Hartman is concerned, revolves mostly around getting Walter's signature on a contract. The couple unwittingly invite him to join them for dinner, but their meal is interrupted even before it's been ordered. Still, Walter isn't too perturbed. With the killers now alerted to the exact identity of the girl by her parents, they continue to pursue her. Yes, the chase is on again. Melissa winds up in all sorts of places, including the bedroom of the Billy Boy, a singer always open to new experiences.

Swirling around the streets of Amsterdam, twisting and turning from one shot to another as well as from one side of town to another, we follow the trail of endless collisions and explosions, sparks and flames, as trams and cars ram each other, etc. All this madness is technically well devised (by stunt coordinator Dicky Beer) and realized (with the assistance of FX coordinator Hans van Helden). There's even a rooftop pursuit a la' "Highlander". DP Marc Felperlaan has proven time and again his ability with a camera from the early Scorpio films of Pim and Wim to the latest beauties of Alex van Warmerdam, up to and including this latest action piece. Unfortunately, here he seems to have chosen some lenses that, in certain shots, emphasize the age and weight of the two leading stars. Hurt and Tilly don't come out on top, seeming to move around like chess pieces without having any great demands made upon their acting abilities. Only Chiklis comes off well, being able to show some character development within the confines of his role. The fault of all this would seem to be less with the direction than with the scenario. The simplicity of the story line may enhance the action, but doesn't give the players much room for expression.

First Floor Features, the Production Company behind this movie, has produced some interesting features during the 15 years since its formation. Having been responsible for some of the finest Dutch movies made over the past decennia (including the Oscar winning "Character"), it has continuously managed to hit whichever audience it targets. This latest feature will undoubtedly be successful in finding receptive viewers, but it might have been more interesting to see Maas not only displaying his technical virtuosity, but also exploring a script with more depth.

I wonder what Melissa would say about all of this.

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett