|'Akin to sitting through an omnibus edition of a particularly bad American TV soap opera'.|
You only have to look back through the Masters Of Cinema titles covered on this site alone over the years to see how many truly outstanding films have been included in the series. There are plenty that have earned either four or five stars, and even those which have scored lower than that have clearly shown qualities which justify their inclusion amongst other such revered cinematic works. This is where Eureka differs from every other Masters Of Cinema release I've previously experienced, as I'm struggling to recall any feature of Nicholas Roeg's film that could be classed as genuinely redeeming.
Roeg begins his film with an extended prologue: twenty-five minutes in which prospector Jack McCann (Gene Hackman) is introduced and the gold discovery which makes his fortune takes place. It's a segment both surreal and bewildering as we learn little about Jack and even less about the events unfolding before us. Thanks to Roeg's baffling style, how much of this opening section is actually happening or is merely going on in Jack's head is never made clear; in the grand scheme of things, however, it doesn't make a great deal of difference.
That's because, despite its near-impenetrable nature, the prologue in fact emerges as the most enjoyable section of Eureka. The remaining hundred minutes or so of the film are set twenty years on, with the now vastly wealthy Jack living out his days on his own Caribbean island. What that means in terms of narrative is Roeg introducing us to several other members of the McCann family, all of whom offer varying levels of antipathy - Jack included - to the point where it's difficult to know whom the director wants us to root for. The protagonist develops into an aggressive and abrasive figure who is hard to connect with in any way, whilst those around him lie, scheme and generally act in various despicable ways. But, whilst we might not like any of these people, far more damaging to Roeg's film is the fact that we almost certainly don't care about them either.
Shooting from a corny-meets-crudity script by Paul Mayersberg, Roeg's directorial approach blends stiff theatricality with artificial melodrama, making the experience of watching Eureka akin to sitting through an omnibus edition of a particularly bad American TV soap opera. This perhaps wouldn't be such a heinous crime if the director didn't waste a cast littered with respected names both emerging and established at the time. As well as boasting Hackman in the lead, Eureka features such talents as Mickey Rourke, Joe Pesci and Rutger Hauer. Everyone here is at best forgettable, at worst really quite bad, with Pesci and Hauer in particular putting in performances that rank amongst the worst of their respective careers.
Founded in 2004, The Masters of Cinema Series is an independent, carefully curated, UK-based Blu-ray and DVD label, now consisting of over 150 films. Films are presented in their original aspect ratio (OAR), in meticulous transfers created from recent restorations and / or the most pristine film elements available.
Eureka is released in the UK on Monday 21st March 2016