NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Representing the feature directorial debut of “Entourage” star Kevin Connolly, “The Gardener of Eden” plays like a slacker cross between “Death Wish” and “Taxi Driver.”
While its resolute strangeness and darkness are to be admired, the film never quite achieves a satisfying or coherent tone, with the result being that it lacks the necessary dramatic urgency or black humor to connect with audiences. Still, it demonstrates impressive risk taking, both by its neophyte director and by star Lukas Haas, the latter delivering a memorably quirky performance.
Haas plays Adam Harris, a 25-year-old still living at home with his parents in New Jersey and working at the local deli. Lacking any direction in his life other than the elaborate bartering system he’s working out with his similarly ambitionless friends, Adam finds himself sinking even further when he loses his job and gets cut off by his buddies.
His life changes dramatically when he lashes out at a stranger during a drunken range and accidentally winds up being responsible for the capture of a serial rapist who has just attacked a local girl (Erika Christensen). Celebrated by the community, he begins an awkward romantic relationship with the victim and decides to continue his crime-fighting ways. Rebuffed by the police when he shows up at the local stationhouse and demands a uniform, he becomes a sort of vigilante, with predictably disastrous results.
Adam “Tex” Davis’ screenplay often goes out of its way to be outrageous, as evidenced by moments like the lead character’s scooping out human brain matter from a tire tread after an unfortunate accident. Much of it feels forced, as with the character of a bike-riding drug dealer (an entertaining Giovanni Ribisi) who bears more than a slight resemblance to Harvey Keitel’s “Taxi Driver” pimp.
But the film does have its resonant aspects, including the relationship between the young anti-hero and his bizarrely supportive father (David Patrick Kelly). Director Connolly often makes the most of them in moments including a slow-motion, bare-chested instructive boxing match between the two characters.
He also has elicited fine work from the talented Haas, who provides complex shadings to his performance that give the film the illusion of a greater depth than it actually possesses.
Adam Harris: Lukas Haas
Mona Hubley: Erika Christensen
Vic: Giovanni Ribisi
George the Greek: Jerry Ferrara
Don: Jon Abrahams
Spim: Jim Parsons
John Harris: David Patrick Kelly
Mom Harris: Ann Dowd
Bob Huxley: Tim Hopper
Uri: Ori Pfeffer
Director: Kevin Connolly; Screenwriter: Adam “Tex” Davis; Producers: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Simpson, Allen Bain; Executive producers: Graham King, Jesse Scolaro; Darren Goldberg, Lemore Syvan; Editors: Pete Beaudreau, Michael Berenbaum; Cinematographer: Lisa Rinzler; Production designer: Happy Massee; Composer: Paul Haslinger.