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Promised Land suffers from narrative drought 

Rating: *1/2

STARS Matt Damon, Frances McDormand

ON REFLECTION: Steve Butler (Matt Damon) is about to have a crisis of conscience in Promised Land. (Photo: Focus Features)
  • ON REFLECTION: Steve Butler (Matt Damon) is about to have a crisis of conscience in Promised Land. (Photo: Focus Features)

By all accounts, Matt Damon is a smart fellow and a sincere progressive, but it would be nice if he left his politics off the screen. It's not that I object to filmmakers dragging their beliefs onto the screen, but if one is going to pursue that route, then for God's sake, at least make the movie more than a tired polemic.

The actor's 2010 release Green Zone found him playing a U.S. Army officer whose search for WMDs in Iraq instead leads him to conclude that — say it ain't so, George! — the whole war was based on a lie perpetrated by the Bush administration. And now we get Promised Land, which finds him playing a natural-gas company spokesperson whose selling of the hydraulic fracturing (aka fracking) technique to small-town rubes instead leads him to conclude that — gasp! — corporations really aren't people, regardless of what the Supreme Court insists.

Adapted by Damon and co-star John Krasinski from a story by Dave Eggers and directed by the wildly inconsistent Gus Van Sant, Promised Land employs endless screeds and silly plot maneuvers to push a scenario that would have benefitted from more depth. The controversial issue of hydraulic fracturing deserves serious treatment, and Damon and Krasinski (as a happy-go-lucky environmentalist) surround themselves with competent co-stars (Frances McDormand, Hal Holbrook, Titus Welliver), but the end result is simply a fracking mess.

(To see Matt Brunson's lists of the Best & Worst Movies of 2012, go here.)

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Promised Land
Rated R · 106 min. · 2012
Official Site:
Director: Gus Van Sant
Writer: Matt Damon, John Krasinski and Dave Eggers
Producer: Chris Moore, Matt Damon and John Krasinski
Cast: Matt Damon, John Krasinski, Frances McDormand, Rosemarie DeWitt, Lucas Black, Titus Welliver, Hal Holbrook, Tim Guinee, Scoot McNairy and Terry Kinney

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