For a movie critic, stumbling across a “new to Netflix” release you haven’t seen or even heard of is an “Uh oh” moment — for the film’s stars.
“We’re No Animals,” the last and least title conjured up for an ad hoc Argentinian aggregation of stars, a script that insists it is “no script” and plenty of random observations about art, the Argentinian soul and Argentinian history, didn’t get an American release.
It’s not even listed on Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic, as nobody bothered to review it (maybe at Cannes, but the reviews aren’t linked). At least IMDb has its credits.
Because it was unreleaseable, an Argentinian attempt at making a Fellini film from the Argentinian director Alejandro Agresti, of “Valentin” and the somber Keanu/Bullock fantasy romance “The Lake House.”
He directs and also plays Patrick Pesto, an “artist” whose pitch has so intrigued a movie star’s agent (Al Pacino) that he’s burned through several cell phone calls convincing that star, Tony (John Cusack) to do the film. Tony, in turn is sold, and his musician and writer friends (Paul Hipp, Kevin Morris) have joined him in Argentina for the filming.
But the pretentious, philosophical Pesto (Agresti, remember) has no script. He’s no filmmaker. “Do you think we even need cameras? To film this? Or can it just happen?”
He’s a painter, perhaps a poet, and a master BS artist — he allows that he’s seen Hollywood films — “Pillow (Talk) something or other. That ‘Best Years’ movie with the guy with no hands (“Best Years of Our Lives”).
And over the course of a long idyll with Pesto, Tony and his mates hit cafes and bars, sleep with women, make music.
Cusack’s Tony expresses dismay, surprise, enthusiasm and curiosity about this land where the natives declare “We cannot get over events that happened 35 years ago.”
People disappeared. Beautiful women they sit and talk with in an Argentinian restaurant in LA mention “My parents met in a concentration camp.”
“One more time?” is the only comeback Tony can manage for that. He has to go to this country, so Italian, so soulful, so Latin American — and experience this for himself and make a movie with a sort of broader poetic point about the land of the tango’s tortured psyche.
And as he does, Cusack wears an almost omnipresent black baseball cap. That’s been a trademark, a crutch, in a lot of awful films he’s taken simply for a check and a little travel — “Arsenal,” “Drive Hard” and others. You see the black baseball cap hiding the black dye job and receding hairline, you know Cusack’s taking a flier, present but not really present.
However daring the intent, the challenge of making a movie that’s not remotely a movie in homage to Fellini, with naked starlets impersonating the REAL Evita — Eva Peron — the ugly Latin sexism that pops up, here and there, the brutality of the past — “We’re No Animals” is — like its title, an apology, an attempt at self-justification and self-defense.
But Cusack, at 50, is a bad poker player who can’t help showing his hand, what he really thinks of this lark. He does it with that black baseball cap.
Cast: John Cusack, Al Pacino, Alejandro Agresti, Paul Hipp, Kevin Morris.
Credits: Written and directed by Alejandro Agresti.
Running time: 1:30