Three Businessmen (1998)

Three Businessmen

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Movie Info

In this comedy-fantasy, American art dealer Bennie and British art dealer Frank King arrive in Liverpool. Abandoned by the waiter in the hotel's restaurant, the two head out into the rainy night but find mostly closed restaurants. Hunger pangs surface as they travel about via subway, bus, ferry and taxi.

Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Comedy
Directed By:
Written By: Tod Davies
On DVD: Mar 22, 2005
Runtime:

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Critic Reviews for Three Businessmen

All Critics (3)

It was a film that pleasantly brought to surface odd moments and was filled with quirky comments.

Full Review… | January 28, 2002
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

August 26, 2005
EmanuelLevy.Com

October 17, 2002
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Audience Reviews for Three Businessmen

It's interesting that "Three Businessmen" is credited as "An Exterminating Angel Production," because the film's debt to Luis Bunuel is obvious -- particularly in light of "The Exterminating Angel" and "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie," Bunuel's two masterpieces about mysteriously interrupted activity. "Lost in Translation" fans also will see some familiar turf here.

Directed but not written by Alex Cox ("Repo Man," "Sid and Nancy"), "Three Businessmen" was shot in five different locations including Liverpool, Rotterdam, Hong Kong and Tokyo. But you may not notice the transitions (after all, so many cities have Asian districts).

A motley cast drifts in and out of the frame, but most of the film's scant 80 minutes rest upon just two actors: Cox himself and Miguel Sandoval (who has appeared in most of Cox's projects). They play art dealers who happen to meet in a posh Liverpool hotel. Bennie (Sandoval) is a restless, overly friendly sort who strains to charm people with smarmy nicknames and comic accents. His part is somewhat overwritten, and this is the film's worst flaw. Meanwhile, Frank (Cox, quite solid as a performer) is the straight man who's a bit impatient and irritable. He likes to carefully tear articles out of newspapers. We don't know why.

The two are frustrated with their hotel's lack of restaurant service, so they trek into the surrounding streets to find a meal. Their attempts to eat ("discreet" attempts, perhaps?) are repeatedly thwarted and they soon lose their bearings. They have many conversations along the way, though -- some intriguing, some dull. And wherever they go, they see posters advertising someone named Daddy Z. We don't know why.

Stick around, even if the lack of plot irritates you -- there's a clever, absurdist ending that perfectly wraps up the story. And rest assured, the film's title eventually will make sense.

Eric Broome
Eric Broome

Super Reviewer

Odd.
That's the only word here.
This film was directed by Alex Cox, most well known for his work on Repo Man (and, to a lesser extent, Sid and Nancy--which, if you aren't aware, has Gary Oldman as Sid Vicious...) and in fact he is one of the two stars of the film. It's an absurd, surreal little film (as a hint, the synposis refers to Bu˝uel and Beckett) about two businessmen, one British (Cox) and one American (Miguel Sandoval, who might be more capable of maintaining "character actor" status, since I did not know his name but was CONVINCED I had seen him before) who happen to share a hotel on their respective business trips.
They happen to meet in the hotel restaurant, where the unusually built, bald, goateed waiter goes to ask the kitchen about the avocado salad's raspberries ("Are they fresh or are they frozen?") and never comes back.

Benny (Sandoval) and Frank (Cox) go to the kitchen to find what has detained their errant waiter, only to find the kitchen devoid of any human presence whatsoever. They exit onto the streets of Liverpool and begin a search for drinks and dinner; the former they succeed in finding, the latter much less.

They spend the entire time discussing various topics, usually related to society, business and philosophy in societal terms. The dialogue is brilliantly realistic and yet surreal; I found myself reminded of David Byrne's monologues in True Stories--which are quite possibly my favourite part of that movie. The first conversation the two of them have, as the ever-British Frank sits quietly reading a newspaper and Benny restlessly clangs silverware together, whistles, hums and can't seem to resist attempting to communicate with Frank's clearly disinterested demeanour.
The painfully, awkwardly stretched attempts to communicate with a stranger are brilliantly acted and written, as are the conversations they have throughout the film as they get more used to each other--even as they accidentally wander into multiple other countries without ever realizing it.
The third businessman, you ask?
Well, he's pictured on the cover, recieves second billing in the end credits (if only because Cox is not credited as actor) but does not appear until the final fifteen to twenty minutes of the film, leading to a hilariously absurd coincidental event near the very end of the film.
It's not something I'd easily or obviously recommend to many folk, though it is only about 80 minutes long and maintained my interest quite well--with a curious, vaguely depressing ambient soundtrack, and occasionally very, very deliberate pacing.

Still, it remained absolutely captivating to watch the brilliant portrayal of a businessman's outward face as he interacted with another of his species.

Odd, I must admit, that this was the first Cox film I saw. I guess Repo Man ought to move up my list now... (8/18/07)

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