Cosmopolis (15) **
Rock of Ages (12A) *

A bad hair day for Cronenberg and Cruise

In David Cronenberg's distracted new movie a young man wants a haircut, and makes a trip across town to get one. The last time I recall a fictional character taking a whole day to visit his barber was Frank Churchill galloping all the way to London in Emma. It was considered rather frivolous by Austen's people.

Cosmopolis, however, is based on a novel (2003) by Don DeLillo, the journey is not by horse but by stretch limo, and the town is midtown Manhattan, in gridlock, coinciding with a president's visit and a funeral parade for a Sufi rapper. The man, a 28-year-old billionaire named Eric Packer, is also the target of a death threat. He must want that haircut quite badly.

Packer, played by the Twilight star Robert Pattinson, is a Master of the Universe – "foully and berserkly rich", as someone describes him – though he shows almost no interest in his wealth, or anything else. Dressed in black suit and tie, seated throne-like at the back of his de luxe limo, he looks like a man on the way to his own funeral. Perhaps he is. The film plays out a sequence of one-on-one vignettes as Packer makes stops to pick up this or that passenger: a financial analyst (Samantha Morton) who advises him to bail out of the yen, his art dealer (Juliette Binoche) with whom he has sex, his doctor who gives him a prostate examination (while he's talking to another adviser), a bodyguard (and another tryst), and a late encounter with an Occupy-style rioter (Mathieu Amalric) who catches him full in the face with a cream pie.

He also fits in a lunch with a cool new wife (Sarah Gadon) he barely seems to know. But her sensitive nose tells her that her husband's stopovers en route have not been innocent.

The affectless nature of these duologues is heightened by the womb-like silence within the limousine. Packer has had the interior "Prousted" – cork-lined – to blot out any sound from the streets, which the occasional glimpse of daylight reveals to be a place in near-meltdown. So our attention is necessarily focused upon the characters' interaction, which, in Pattinson's case, struggles to involve us.

Saturnine and chiselled, he has no great expressive mobility in his features, only once showing a twitch of surprise when Binoche tells him about an "important" Rothko that has come on the market. Instead, he decides to buy the whole Rothko chapel and its contents – why settle for a mere painting?

A lot seems to be happening around Packer on this cross-town doom ride, yet very little of it registers as drama. As John Updike wrote in his review of DeLillo's novel, "How much should we care about the threatened assassination of a hero as unsympathetic and bizarre as Eric Packer?"

The problem becomes acute in the story's final encounter, when he meets a hostile ex-employee, played by Paul Giamatti, and learns that they share the same medical anomaly: a "lopsided" prostate. (Was that the detail which first hooked Cronenberg, connoisseur of the aberrant?) Their conversation takes on the tetchily enigmatic style, and length, of a Pinter play. That's another curious and disagreeable aspect of Cosmopolis, which runs for 109 minutes yet seems to last twice as long.

It's the second literary adaptation Cronenberg has directed after A Dangerous Method, which also went heavy on the talkiness. The mystery of it is why he should want to make such a cold and bloodless film when most of his best work – Dead Ringers, A History of Violence, The Dead Zone – depends so markedly on engagement with the human and the vulnerable. "Why can I not work up any curiosity on the subject?" muses Packer on his death threat. If he doesn't know, I can't tell you.

There was a glimmer of a sneaking feeling that Rock of Ages might just be an irresistible guilty pleasure. Coming off the back of a jukebox musical that has been knocking them dead here and on Broadway, it aims to do for poodle rock what Mamma Mia! did for the Abba catalogue. Its throwback setting of 1987 is also in its favour, given our helpless fetishism of big hair, power ballads and mobile phones the size of toasters. Alas, its feel-good potency as a stage entertainment has been utterly squashed in its transfer to film, where it lumbers and flails and outstays its welcome by at least half an hour.

The blame? Partly it's the bland leads, wannabe singers Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta, warbling their hearts out to no purpose at all. Partly it's Tom Cruise for his laboured turn as narcissistic rock god Stacee Jaxx, necking bourbon from the bottle and spacing his lines s-o-o-o broadly you could drive his personal trailer through each of them. And partly it's the director Adam Shankman, who tries to whip up audience goodwill but dissipates the fun with too much cutting and too little drive. His choreography on the big numbers is way off the pace.

Alec Baldwin brings a touch of comic guile to the rock-club impresario who takes a flyer on the pair of songbirds, while Russell Brand as his sidekick doodles amusingly with a Brummie accent. Amid so much misfiring bluster, their duet on REO Speedwagon's "Can't Fight This Feeling" at least raises a laugh.

It's all so terribly tame. Lemmy of Motörhead once said, "Rock'n'roll is about not being able to stand, but still being able to play". He would loathe Rock of Ages, and with good reason.

Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
The American stand-up Tig Notaro, who performed topless this week

Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars

Arts and Entertainment

TVNetflix gets cryptic

Arts and Entertainment
Claudia Winkleman is having another week off Strictly to care for her daughter
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Children in Need is the BBC's UK charity. Since 1980 it has raised over £600 million to change the lives of disabled children and young people in the UK

TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his winning novel

Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
    Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

    Look what's mushrooming now!

    Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
    Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

    Oeuf quake

    Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
    Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

    Terry Venables column

    Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
    Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin