Though most of the cleansing, massaging and touch-ups seem to have gone on its actor-director, ”The Company You Keep”’s engaging premise and all-star credits block makes up for the odd cinematic pore Robert Redford neglected to clean out before rolling film.
A cross between a Redford-hosted telethon that screams “look at all the famous friends that have dropped by to help me!” (This thing is packed with more stars than a Captain America skivvy!) and one of those fluffy commercial John Grisham movies of the ’90s (Sydney Pollack’s ”The Firm”, with its commercial drive and roster of thesps backing up Tom Cruise, is the one that first comes to mind), ”The Company you Keep” seems a little bit too intent on pleasing everyone. As a consequence, it’s railing comes unstuck by the third reel.
As he doesn’t headline too many movies these days, Redford needed to spend more time on his film’s libretto and less on his ridiculous dye job. What he serves up here is a worn, slightly silly but mostly familiar tale that wears some good-looking boot polish in the form of commanding performances by some of Hollywood’s most esteemed (Who wouldn’t want to work with Redford!?), some beautiful location work (those seaside cliffs of California look gorgeous on film!), and enough well choreographed action moments to bring in that younger crowd.
Having said that, and like those Grisham books cum movies, ”The Company You Keep” is never nothing but entertaining, sometimes very entertaining. And it’s definitely a showcase for Redford, who is on screen for most of the film’s brisk 125 minutes.
Redford plays a former Weather Underground activist – accused of a crime he didn’t commit – who goes on the run from a nosy, determined investigative journalist (Shia LaBeouf, in one of the better parts he’s had for a while) who has discovered his identity. Leaving his daughter (Jackie Evancho) with an estranged brother (Chris Cooper), Nick Sloan (Redford) does a Richard Kimble – dashing across America in search of… well, we don’t actually know what he’s up to, only that he doesn’t seem to be disappearing.
“I don’t think he’s running away”, says LaBeouf’s young journo , “I think he’s trying to clear his name.”
There’s twist one revealed. But they keep coming – even if some of them don’t work.
Though a lot of the big names in the supporting roles don’t have much to do (Susan Sarandon, Nick Nolte and Sam Elliott the most perceptible of the disused, but the thing features everyone from Julie Christie to Richard Jenkins, Terrence Howard, Stanley Tucci and Anna Kendrick), the filmmaker puts himself front and center for this whole thing, and he’s as gripping to watch as he ever was. Even when he’s shooting off dimish dialogue, or his character is doing something preposterously specious (for someone that’s all about logic, his Nick Sloane doesn’t seem to be too smart. I mean, hello? dude, just change the colour of your hair!) , Redford’s Death Base keeps the audience’s Falcon stuck in his tractor beam.
It won’t win any awards (which is likely why it’s being released a month or so after the Oscars), but ”The Company You Keep” is still a really engaging audience pleaser that serves as a welcome reminder that there’s something magical about old Hollywood favourites like Bob Redford that you just don’t find too much with today’s poster faces.
Not so long between films next time, eh Sundance kid!?