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‘Dreamland’ Review: The Hit Man and the Trumpeter

If you’ve never seen a movie luxuriate in eccentricity as thoroughly as a cat basking in a sun puddle, then you need to watch “Dreamland.” Strange, challenging and boundlessly confident, this tripped-out noir from the Canadian filmmaker Bruce McDonald (best known for his 2009 horror movie, “Pontypool”) is part lucid dream, part drugged-out nightmare.

“We’re in a different world,” a haggard hit man named Johnny Dead Eyes (Stephen McHattie) signals from his perch in an unidentified European city. On the instructions of his longtime boss (Henry Rollins, channeling Austin Powers), Johnny must sever the pinkie finger of a heroin-hazed jazz trumpeter (inspired by Chet Baker, and also played by McHattie). This mission could be hampered by Johnny’s secret plan to rescue an underage girl from a nut case known as the Countess (Juliette Lewis), who has procured the girl as a bride for her vile brother. Who just happens to be a vampire.

Freaky and frequently incoherent, “Dreamland” uses McHattie’s affecting portrayal of beaten-down anguish (he played Chet Baker in a 2009 short film) to clear a path through the craziness. Gathering the living, the dead and the undead together on a single, surreal plane, the movie turns its sordid, sex-trafficking plot into a decadent, redemptive fairy tale. Washing everything in a synthetic glamour, the cinematographer, Richard Van Oosterhout, coaxes dazzle and delirium from underworld club, glittering ballroom and scummy alleyway.

These days, too many movies shrink all too willingly into the constrictive embrace of the small screen; “Dreamland” fights diminution every step of the way.


Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 32 minutes. Rent or buy on Amazon, iTunesGoogle Play and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.

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