911-movie-rev 9/11  (2017)    Atlas/Drama-Action    RT: 90 minutes    Rated R (language)    Director: Martin Guigui    Screenplay: Martin Guigui and Steven Golebiowski    Music: Jeff Toyne    Cinematography: Massimo Zeri    Release date: September 8, 2017 (US)    Cast: Charlie Sheen, Gina Gershon, Luis Guzman, Wood Harris, Olga Fonda, Jacqueline Bisset, Whoopi Goldberg, Bruce Davison, Faune Chambers Watson, Prestyn Bates.      Box Office: $192,318 (US)


 9/11 would be laughable if not for the seriousness of its subject. As indicated by the title, the action takes place on September 11, 2001, a day that will live in infamy. The events of that day are still fresh in the minds of the American public. Everybody remembers where they were when the planes hit the World Trade Center. We watched in horror as people jumped out of windows to certain death on the ground below. We watched as the Towers came crashing down. It was a sad and scary day. To this day, some people (myself included) still avoid tall buildings.

911-movie Based on a stage play (“Elevator”) by Patrick Carson, 9/11 focuses on five people trapped in an elevator in the North Tower on the fateful day. They are billionaire financier Jeffrey Cage (Sheen, Wall Street), his soon-to-be ex-wife Eve (Gershon, Showgirls), “custodial engineer” Eddie (Guzman, Boogie Nights), bike messenger Michael (Harris, The Wire) and Russian trophy girlfriend Tina (Fonda, Real Steel). The movie opens with perfunctory introductions to each of these characters as well as the elevator operator, Metzie (Goldberg, Ghost), who tries to help them out of their predicament. 

 They make a few escape attempts but mostly they just sit and talk. 9/11 is like World Trade Center meets The Breakfast Club. We learn early on that Jeffrey doesn’t want a divorce; he still loves his wife. Eve is tired of him working all the time and not being there for their young son J.J. (Bates) who’s watching the tragedy unfold on TV with his grandmother (Bisset, Class). As they wait for a rescue that may never come, they reveal aspects of their personalities. This is where 9/11 hits most of its false notes. It turns out black bike messenger is a big racist; he automatically assumes the cab driver that hit him in a hit-and-run is a Pakistani. Tina admits that she hopes her sugar daddy boyfriend (who she came to break with) is dead. Eddie talks about how his gambling addiction nearly destroyed his life.

 Some scenes are downright offensive like the one where Eve lectures Michael about the value of hard work. Really? She explains how her husband came to New York with only $60 in his pocket, worked his butt off and became a billionaire. So she defends him for the same reason she’s divorcing him? Yeah, it makes perfect sense. Equally awful is the scene where JJ asks his grandmother if his mommy and daddy are coming home. Then, of course, there’s the climax is which one character makes the ultimate sacrifice so that the others may live their lives. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to guess which character it is.

 News footage of the Towers is interspersed throughout 9/11 to remind viewers of the emotional gravity of the tragedy. It comes off as exploitative and manipulative. The trapped-in-an-elevator scenario is right out of a disaster movie. As for the acting, how appropriate is it that the main character shares a surname with a certain actor known for overacting. As 9/11 reaches the end, Sheen’s performance becomes more and more manic. All it does is remind reviews of a better movie about 9/11 (2006’s World Trade Center). Fonda, although attractive, has the acting ability of a gravy ladle. The rest of the actors are basically there to occupy space. The characters are thinly-drawn. What little is revealed about them has no bearing on the story. The drama is handled clumsily. And does anybody else find it odd that Goldberg’s character knows so little about the mechanics of elevators? She oversees the operation of all the buildings’ elevators; you’d think that she picked up a few things over the years.

 Like I said earlier, 9/11 would be laughably bad if not for its subject. Director Martin Guigui (The Bronx Bull) keeps reminding us of what’s going on outside the confines of the elevator. He really believes his movie is a loving tribute to all those who died that day. He even dedicates it to the victims and includes the words “NEVER FORGET” before the end credits start to roll. If the movie could be taken more seriously, these words would have an actual impact. For many (myself included), it’s still too soon to laugh at anything connected to that day. As bad a movie 9/11 is, there’s something oddly compelling about it. It’s one of those movies you have to see for yourself. It’s so horribly misconceived, you have to wonder how it even achieved a theatrical release. It’s a must-see for all the wrong reasons. 

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