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‘Bag Man’ stops dead in its tracks and ‘Elaine Stritch’ celebrates a legend

"The Bag Man" and "Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me"
"The Bag Man" and "Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me"Cinedigm Entertainment and IFC Films

Among the new movies that were released Friday, March 7 are a thriller pitting John Cusack against Robert De Niro and a documentary about the extremely abrasive Elaine Stritch.

The Bag Man

John Cusack plays a criminal who bides his time at a seedy motel, waiting for his boss (Robert De Niro) after killing several men and making away with a bag whose contents are to remain unknown to all - including himself. (R - 100 minutes)

If it were not for Brazilian actress Rebecca Da Costa, “The Bag Man” may have actually been a halfway decent thriller. After all, stars John Cusack and Robert De Niro turn in powerfully peculiar performances and the plot is compelling enough to at the very least keep viewers interested if only to find out what’s in the bag. However, De Costa’s uncanny inability to act completely demolishes any potential that the motion picture possesses. It is not entirely the actresses fault, though, as writer/director David Grovic created a character for her that is so boring that she stops the story dead in its tracks. (Thumbs Down!)

Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me

Filmmaker Chiemi Karasawa showcases uncompromising Tony and Emmy Award-winner Elaine Stritch both on and off stage via rare archival footage and intimate cinema vérité. (NR - 80 minutes)

“Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me” is a rare documentary about a single celebrity that does not require viewers to like - or even be familiar with - said celebrity in order to enjoy the experience. That is because rather than simply celebrating who Tony and Emmy Award-winner Elaine Stritch in on stage, filmmaker Chiemi Karasawa reveals who she is off stage as well. And, frankly, Stritch may be even more abrasive off stage as she is on stage. But that only makes her more real and therefore also relatable. It is a portrait that Stritch can be proud of because it shows that she truly is this outrageous character that we have come to know and love. (Thumbs Up!)