You know how white-collar criminals in movies are always talking about their hidden bank accounts in the Cayman Islands? What are the islands like? Is it just street after street lined with nothing but banks, a Caribbean version of New York’s financial district? That’s how I always pictured it.
But no! I was mistaken. “Haven” has taught me that people actually LIVE in the Caymans, and that their lives are a nonstop procession of lies, violence and infidelity.
The Cayman Islands! Come for the tropical sea breezes, stay for the gangland shootouts!
Writer/director Frank E. Flowers, who grew up in the Caymans, has constructed his film in a non-linear fashion, jumping around in time and changing protagonists on us regularly. We start with Carl Ridley (Bill Paxton), a Miami businessman who’s tipped off in the nick of time that the Feds are coming for him and his ill-gotten money (embezzled, one assumes) and that he’d better skip town. He flees to a condo he owns on the same island where all his money is, taking his recalcitrant teenage daughter Pippa (Agnes Brucker) with him.
Pippa, for some reason angry at being whisked away to a tropical paradise of white-sand beaches and tourist-friendly drinking establishments, is soon spending time with Fritz (Victor Rasuk), a local player, hood and smooth talker. Despite his boasts that this is “his” island, he is fearful of Richie Rich (Razaaq Adoti), the adult version of Fritz who ACTUALLY runs things.
Then the movie seems to forget about Carl Ridley’s money problems and Pippa’s flirtation with being a thug’s girlfriend. Indeed, the movie seems to forget those characters altogether. We switch to Plot B, which has a dockworker nicknamed Shy (Orlando Bloom) dating Andrea (Zoe Saldana), the daughter of his employer. The boss (Robert Wisdom) and Andrea’s brother Hammer (Anthony Mackie) don’t approve of the relationship because they’re wealthy while Shy is poor. The fact that Shy is white while Andrea is black is supposed to be ironic: Usually the discrimination would go the other way, get it?
There’s a confrontation between Shy and Hammer that ends with Hammer incarcerated. A few months pass. And then, what’s this? We’re back with Pippa and Fritz again, learning how their story intersects with Shy’s and seeing a few key scenes from different perspectives.
Now, I love a good twisty-turny-overlapping-plots caper as much as anyone, but “Haven’s” non-linear story is its only virtue. The tone is moody and bleak, the characters are petty jackasses, and Flowers’ heavy-handed messages about colonialism are trite. Eventually the plot contrivances and coincidences — no surprise this was produced by the same people who brought you “Crash” — become too much to bear and the whole dismal production collapses into hilarity.
C- (1 hr., 55 min.; )