1:57 PM EDT, October 10, 2013
In the "duh" department: Danny Huston sounds a lot like his late and legendary father, director, screenwriter and sometime actor John Huston — those rumbly, gravelly intonations are unmistakable. Now in a week's run at Facets, "2 Jacks" finds Huston pulling a sly and relaxed variation on his old man's image, in the role of an old-time Hollywood filmmaker scrambling for financing, partaking of a few of Hollywood's diversions, smoking the largest cigar on the market.
The movie, rather thin but moderately entertaining, comes from Leo Tolstoy's short 1856 novel "Two Hussars." This is adapter and director Bernard Rose's latest Tolstoy adaptation for the screen. Tolstoy wrote about a charming scoundrel of a Russian count and, picking up things two decades later, his hussar officer son, whose adventures in the same provincial town mirrored what Tolstoy saw as a crumbling of honor and values.
The story's hussars become the film industry's weasels in "2 Jacks." We're introduced to Jack Hussar (Huston) at LAX, waiting for a ride that never comes. A young admirer, fledgling director division, approaches and soon he and Jack are off on various escapades. A seduction (Sienna Miller plays the aspiring actress) is imminent and inevitable. Twenty years later, Jack's son (played by Huston's nephew, Jack Huston) comes to LA where he's to make a movie. Rose puts the younger Huston through the paces we've already seen, but everything is coarser, lower, less winning. What happened to personal charm? Does it skip a generation, the movie wonders?
The elder Huston, in this context certainly, is a more interesting actor than his nephew — more at ease, more willing to let the camera catch small moments on the fly. At the same time, Danny Huston never had the grizzled authority of his own father's screen persona; he's more of a teddy bear. But he has some range, and the melancholy comedy, however small, allows him room to explore it.
Regarding the 19th century-sounding musical score by Iryna Orlova and Anatoliy Mamalyga: There's too much of it.
"Two Jacks" -- 2 1/2 stars
No MPAA rating (some nudity and language)
Running time: 1:30
Plays: Friday-Thursday at Facets Cinematheque
Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC