By: BabyRuth (Five Beers) –
Perhaps you’ve heard about a new film that takes place during the tragic events of September 11th, 2001 starring one of the most randomly assembled casts in movie history (Charlie #winning Sheen, Gina “Crystal Connors, darlin” Gershon, Whoopi—Oscar Winner—Goldberg, Whoopi Goldberg’s unfortunate wig, and Luis—oh yeah, that guy—Guzmán) which for some reason, did not go straight to DVD/VOD/cable/an endless abyss but is currently being shown in movie theaters (of course, coinciding with the 16th anniversary of that horrible day). Most likely, you haven’t. But I assure you, it is true. I saw it with my own eyes along with six other people.
Why would such a movie exist? Who would greenlight this thing thinking it was a good idea? These are wonderful questions, however, even after seeing it, I have no goddamn clue.
9/11 tells the story of five people: There’s Jeffrey Cage (Sheen), a goodhearted but work-obsessed billionaire who tells terrible jokes. Jeffrey is in the middle of divorce proceedings with his estranged wife Eve (Gershon). Eve wants to move forward with the split while Jeffrey still hopes to work it out. Then there’s Eddie (Guzmán), a custodial engineer—do NOT call him a janitor—going about his daily rounds of unclogging toilets and never getting to finish a cup of coffee. Michael (Wood Harris) is a bike messenger, just trying to make it through his tasks in time to get home for his young daughter’s birthday party. Finally, there’s Tina (Olga Fonda), a young woman who picked the wrong day to go to her sugardaddy’s World Trade Center office to break off their relationship.
After some clunky introductions and clunkier expository dialogue (Yankees/Mets baseball small talk, because they’re in New York don’t you know?), the five all end up in an elevator in the North Tower moments before the first plane makes impact with the building. At first they figure it’s some kind of technical malfunction and nothing more than an annoyance delaying their plans for the day. They soon realize they are trapped and each deal with it differently. Tina immediately reaches for a bottle of pills in her purse. Michael keeps silent, at first. Eve asks “what’s going on?” a few dozen times. Jeffrey keeps calm, as he’s used to things going his way, though he can’t help recalling the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Eddie tries to figure out how to resolve the situation, calling upon his friend Metzie (Goldberg), who oversees all the elevators from a control room, through the elevator’s intercom system, which thankfully still works. As time passes, the situation becomes more clear, more dire, and the five, along with Metzie must work together to find a way out before it’s too late.
Unfortunately, Goldberg couldn’t find a way out of this movie (and wig) after signing on.
So how does that sound? Terrible? Unnecessary? Exploitative?
Well, with the exception of “unnecessary,” because again, WHY??, it’s not as horrible and offensive as the trailer makes it appear. Oh, it’s bad, but it could have been a lot worse. It just kind of exists for whatever reason.
While we are discussing things that exist for some reason…WHYYYY????
There are few moments that come close to achieving a genuine, emotional reaction. Close, but again, the whole thing is so poorly written and just flat out a bad idea that they never make much of an impact.
9/11 is adapted from a stage play called “Elevator” by a writer named Patrick Carson. It ran in Tucson in 2011. I managed to find a description of the play:
“There’s a maintenance worker; a young secretarial assistant; a pregnant Muslim woman who we learn has a Jewish husband; and a middle-age philanthropist crippled in both body and spirit. There’s also a wealthy man who perceives himself as powerful and important, but who is pretty much just a well-dressed asshole. His older female assistant is constantly apologizing for his behavior and tries to soothe the fears of the captives. As their situation drags on, and they learn the nature of what has happened, there are confessions, musings and acts which reveal the essence of each of them as they try to deal with the fate they all share.”
Screenwriter Steven James Golebiowski made a few changes and without seeing the play, I would venture to assume they were not good ones because the above synopsis sounds a hell of a lot more interesting than the movie I saw. Changing Sheen’s character from a well-dressed asshole to a well-dressed hero was a mistake, though since Golebiowski was a writer on the Sheen comeback sitcom Anger Management, it’s quite obvious this is another attempt to clean up Sheen’s image after his infamous public meltdown a few years back. But it’s an odd choice for the troubled actor’s return to feature films as some comments he made several years ago about the September 11th attacks are coming back to haunt him like lawsuits from former sexual partners.
The other characters are pretty much stereotypes, and despite the actors’ best efforts (some better than others), are so thinly written that it’s hard to care very much about them. We meet one nameless, minor character in the final few scenes who elicits more of an emotional response in his short screen time than any of the core six.
There are attempts at having the characters from various backgrounds debate and discuss race, class, privilege, etc Breakfast Club-style during the quieter moments of their ordeal, but it never really goes anywhere or makes any kind of commentary other than they are different. (Ya think?) It’s just filler until the next escape attempt.
It’s obvious this movie was made on the cheap and one of the methods used to show the devastation was to rely on archived news footage of the actual events. It’s pretty unsettling and feels like yet another wrong decision. Shots often linger far longer than they need to and it’s uncomfortable. I understand this was the intent so we #neverforget, but we’ve all seen those images hundreds of times. No one is forgetting anything. That footage is of real people dying; there is no way to incorporate it into entertainment. None.
Jeffrey and Eve have an eight-year-old son (I think he was eight. Eight or ten or five, I’m not sure, somewhere around there.) named J.J.
J.J. is the absolute worst. When Eve is finally able to get a cellular signal (on September 11, 2001, in the World Trade Center, in a freaking elevator… sure) and reach her mother (Jacqueline Bisset – further adding to the randomness of this cast) J.J. is all “Hey dad, check out the buildings on fire!” When he’s told he needs to stay inside, he whines about wanting to go to the park. J.J. is a sociopath. Fuck you J.J.
I still don’t understand how or why this movie exists, let alone how/why it received a (limited) theatrical release. While not as offensive as expected, it’s still very bad and unnecessary. For a film in which the intended purpose of its existence seems to be to remind its audience to “never forget,” it’s pretty forgettable.
9/11 (2017) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: foreshadowing (there’s actually dialogue about the phrase “in the eleventh hour” that a character mistakenly references as “in the ninth hour.” Get it? 9? 11? Ugh. Drink.)
Take a Drink: there is a character named Metzie who loves the Mets. Seriously. Drink.
Take a Drink: whenever Eve asks Jeffrey to sign the divorce papers
Take a Drink: whenever someone says “What’s going on?”
Take a Drink: every time someone makes a comment about how wealthy Jeffrey is
Take a Drink: that little asshole J.J.
Take a Drink: every time someone attempts to pry open the elevator doors
Take a Drink and Keep Drinking: whenever you feel uncomfortable (real news footage)
Do a Shot: every time the lights go out