Track 29 drifts between film noir and dream state depictions of retribution whilst possessing an edgy and uncomfortable sexual energy.
At its best this is an idiosyncratic overindulgence with a paper thin plot and powerhouse performance. Driven by the embodiment of frenetic anarchy which Gary Oldman personified in his early career, he is a force of nature with limitless potential and a tangible presence. Made just after the Joe Orton bio-pic Prick Up Your Ears his drifter remains enigmatic, unpredictable and purposely out of place throughout. Theresa Russell is in constant danger of being acted off the screen by his schizophrenic tour de force, whilst Christopher Lloyd shakes off the shackles of Doc Brown to dominate elsewhere.
Tonally it drifts between film noir and dream state depictions of retribution whilst possessing an edgy and uncomfortable sexual energy. Director Nicholas Roeg and screenwriter Dennis Potter mix British sensibilities into a Deep South locale making everything feel off kilter from the outset. By any measure Potter has always embraced the quirky, condoned the kinky and made a mistress of incongruity within character traits. Although revered in certain circles his style is an acquired taste which can see audiences repealed as much as fascinated by the work. Roeg also walked a similarly thin line when it came to mainstream acceptance, making Track 29 an arthouse oddity with few redeeming features.
Film references might mirror narrative twists but even these flashes of surrealist invention only serve to confuse rather than clarify. Moments of extreme violence punch holes a mile wide through an embarrassingly insubstantial story, which offers no sense of character progression or narrative closure. Every actor present including the formidable Oldman are there because of Roeg and his reputation, which on this occasion fails to deliver. Disjointed, fragmentary and of interest to aficionados’ only Track 29 is disappointingly shambolic.
With both writer and director passed on it would be best to invest in titles worthy of ownership, whether they are the superior Man Who Fell To Earth or genre defining Don’t Look Now. These films are the legacy Roeg leaves behind just as Potter is best celebrated through The Singing Detective or Pennies From Heaven. These later entries are no measure of either man artistically or otherwise, which is why it remains best to draw a discreet veil over such work.
Written by Martin Carr
Directed by: Nicolas Roeg
Written by: Dennis Potter
Starring: Theresa Russell, Gary Oldman, Colleen Camp, Sandra Bernhard, Seymour Cassel, Christopher Lloyd
Released: 1988 / Genre: Drama
Country: USA/UK / IMDB
More reviews: Latest | Archive
Track 29 is out now on UK Blu-ray from Powerhouse Films.