Bearing a 2008 copyright, the film Human Zoo pops up for a one-week run at the New Beverly, presented by the theater's benefactor, Quentin Tarantino, with an unofficial local PR push courtesy of the Weinstein Co. Best known to moviegoers as the star of Luc Besson's Parisian fantasy Angel-A, model/artist Rie Rasmussen is here writer, director, star and even co-editor, with the story apparently based on the experiences of her adopted sister.
A woman (Rasmussen) in present-day Marseille is unable to fully put behind her the brutal, dehumanizing horrors she witnessed during the Kosovo conflict of the late 1990s. A passionate romance with a naive American repeatedly sends her spinning back into memories of her time as a war-zone protégé of an army deserter–turned-gangster and avenging assassin. Alternating scenes of past violence with a current sexy idyll, the director eventually collides the two story strands. Everything's meant to play as if it's Very Meaningful, but instead comes across as unconvincing and inscrutably half-baked.
The only saving grace in the film is the gleefully zesty performance of Nikola Djuricko as Rasmussen's unlikely mentor, a gonzo crime lord who enjoys his work a little too much.
Incoherent and self-indulgent, the film can't even manage to be particularly fun — even the supermodel sex scenes are disconcertingly disengaged, and everything is shot with a dingy patina that parades about as gritty realism.
If Human Zoo were some kind of neglected masterwork or struggling-to-find-its-audience oddity, a famous friend with a movie theater to show it in would be a wonderful thing. But some movies really do deserve to just stay on the shelf. —Mark Olsen (New Beverly Cinema, Nov. 11-17)