MVD Marquee Collection: Haven (2004) - Reviewed

The Cayman Islands are a mainstay in the movies for their scenic beauty, sporting clean seas and idyllic beaches.  From The Cayman Triangle to The Firm starring Tom Cruise, it remains an attractive setting and area for filmmakers channeling their visions of paradise.  Resident Cayman Islands born filmmaker Frank E. Flowers, having recently returned from Hollywood to his native hometown, decided to mount a film production there and with the help of actor and leading actor Orlando Bloom wrote and directed his first feature with the ensemble drama Haven.  The finished film is another one of those movies clearly inspired by the interlocking stories and time-jumping narrative structure employed by Pulp Fiction, Go and Traffic with just enough heavy-duty punishment of the characters and audience to give it a 21 Grams flavor.  

On the Cayman Islands, our central protagonist Shy (Orlando Bloom) gets himself into serious trouble after romancing Andrea (Zoe Saldana) against her parents and brother Hammer’s (Anthony Mackie) wishes.  After a vengeful act disfigures the pretty boy Shy, triggering his own vengeful path, this disparate story thread crosses paths with crooked businessman Carl (Bill Paxton) and his daughter Pippa (Agnes Bruckner) who are on the run from the Feds while taking refuge in the Cayman Islands.  In what quickly became a time-honored tradition with this interlocking-stories ensemble picture, as the threads intersect a web of violence explodes through the lives of the characters, sending upheaval and trauma through nearly all involved.

Another one of those “tense dramas” that tries so hard to beat up the viewer it starts feeling like a contrivance, Haven is less interested in figuring out the meaning of the lives of these characters than merely setting them loose on the Cayman Islands to devour each other.  It is aggravating and messy with Capital-A acting from nearly all of the performers fishing for an Oscar.  Though it dabbles into the so-called “thug life” ala Amores Perros, seeing Orlando Bloom trying to be tough and tormented just felt phony.  Bill Paxton seems to be the only believable performer in the piece while everyone else tries too hard to be noticed by the Academy. 

Visually, Haven sports decent cinematography by Michael Bernard who exploits the Cayman Islands setting beautifully but is cut together so rapidly with sometimes frenzied camerawork that it feels less like a professional production and more like a sophomore effort.  Outside of the cast of newcomers who would eventually hone their craft as time went on in their respective careers, Haven though intending to make a graceful leap off the diving board instead slips and falls before landing headfirst belly up with a messy splash.  A shame because clearly the writer-director cares enough about his hometown to make a film around it.  Too bad he never seemed completely sure why he or his cast and crew ventured out there in the first place.

--Andrew Kotwicki