Owen Gleiberman
July 16, 1999 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Broken Vessels

Current Status
In Season
Todd Field, Jason London, Susan Traylor
Scott Ziehl

We gave it a B+

New York City may have a patent on cynicism, but when it comes to the glories of cool misanthropic indifference, Los Angeles still owns the day. In Broken Vessels, Tom (Jason London), an angel-eyed newcomer to L.A., lands a job as a paramedic, riding along with a veteran driver who’s a veritable prince of indifference — the flippantly sociopathic Jimmy (Todd Field), who spends his days saving lives yet has no compunction about stealing, lying, feeling up unconscious girls in his ambulance, or smoking heroin around the clock.

Scott Ziehl’s first feature, a downward-spiraling anti-thrill ride, may be an obvious riff on Repo Man and Trainspotting, but it has its own spasms of energy and cruel humor. The movie could have used a wilder protagonist (a cliche tragedy from Tom’s past seems to have rendered him a mournful kitten), but Todd Field, featured in the upcoming Eyes Wide Shut, makes Jimmy a kick to watch in his aloof depravity. He administers health care with the efficiency of a professional assassin, and that’s the way he pursues pleasure as well. Like L.A. itself, he turns hedonism into a threat. As the duo’s speed-freak neighbor, Susan Traylor is like Molly Shannon’s parochial-school nerd, only twice as unhinged. B+

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