Most films would be better if their screenplays had gone through just one more draft.
For Hannah probably could have used one fewer.
The core of the movie is a gripping little wintry noir. A desperate bank robber is trying to get out of town only to have his car break down. He trudges through the snow until he finds a house, hoping to just steal another car and keep going. But the cranky husband hears him.
And suddenly the crook on the run is stuck inside a house with a squabbling couple and no idea what to do next.
It’s a fine set-up even if it’s a little too familiar of The Ref, a movie which stuck burglar Denis Leary in the house with snarling yuppies Judy Davis and Kevin Spacey. The art director has given the couple’s house a lot of kitschy Christmas decorations, and the plot takes some turns, as we soon realize that the master of the house may have a criminal past of his own.
But then the movie gets off its blackly comic track and starts to go simply black, with stabbings, strangling, shootings, chloroformings, hammer attacks and a brightly colored closeup of brain matter oozing down the wall. Not quite so much fun as watching a couple feud while an impatient bank robber rolls his eyes.
However, you’ve no sooner adjusted for this new mood than the film takes a dip into low comedy, with some exaggerated corn-fed locals, including a stupid television reporter who can’t get through a story without squealing and a sheriff who seems to have wandered in from an old “Hee-Haw” sketch.
For Hannah would have been fine as one movie (personally, I preferred the ultra-violent section option – the writers really aren’t sharp enough to pull off the first). But cutting in and out of all three puts the whole film off balance. It feels as if someone read a first draft, and decided the story needed something – but not sure of what, exactly, proceeded to give it everything.
Credit Shannon Brown for providing the bank robber with a grimy kind of authority, at least, and director John Wesley Norton for capturing some wintry landscapes. There’s also one good, gritty action sequence that, like the murder from Hitchcock’s Torn Curtain, reminds us again of just how hard it can be to kill a man with your bare hands.
But in the end, the movie is just a little too long, and a little too scattered, to work. And like our clumsy burglar – who has to quickly run out of the bank when he accidentally sets it on fire – you may shut off the film feeling you didn’t get exactly what you came for.