Oxygen, Please!

rex theairibreathe1h Oxygen, Please!THE AIR I BREATHE
Running Time 97 minutes
Written and directed
by Jieho Lee
Starring Forest Whitaker, Andy Garcia, Emile Hirsch, Brendan Fraser, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Kevin Bacon and Julie Delpy

For rock-bottom nasty, with no social relevance, there is The Air I Breathe, a load of amateurish bilge so silly I thought I was watching a screening at Comedy Central. In the tiresome, done-to-death style of overlapping stories used to much better advantage in vastly superior films like Crash and Babel, an all-star polyglot of wasted talent glues together four disconnected tales that border on laughable. Fresh from his triumph as Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland, Oscar winner Forest Whitaker bets $50,000 he doesn’t have on a horse named Butterfly in a fixed race with 8-to-1 odds. The horse drops dead on the track, and the “sure thing” turns into a nightmare when a crime boss named Fingers (Andy Garcia) drops around to collect. Fingers is so named because when a deadbeat owes, he cuts off a finger a day until they pay. (Graphic illustrations included.) Escaping in a high-speed chase on a stolen motor bike, Mr. Whitaker gets broad-sided in traffic and shot to death. That’s the end of Forest Whitaker. Fresh from his marvelous, career-defining role in Into the Wild, a misguided Emile Hirsch appears as Fingers’ wild, moronic nephew who tags along while a stooge (Brendan Fraser) makes his collection rounds. They both get kicked half to death. Recovering from his wounds, the goon appoints himself as lover-protector of a drunken pop star (Sarah Michelle Gellar) who has been taken prisoner by Fingers to pay off her manager’s gambling debts. The wooden-faced Ms. Gellar provides accidental comic relief spouting brilliant analytical homilies like “Scars are the road map to the soul.” But I digress. Fingers shows up and pistol-whips her boyfriend to death. Goodbye now to Brendan Fraser. But wait. The pop tart had a childhood friend who is now a doctor (Kevin Bacon) with a friend (Julie Delpy) who gets bitten by a poisonous viper, and the pop star is the only one in the naked city with the same blood type, so she gets dragged out of a recording session for a transfusion, but hits a man on a motor bike who turns out to be … you guessed it. Goodbye to just about everything and everyone. If you followed the dots to this point, it is extremely doubtful that you will still be awake enough to care. The Air I Breathe is only 97 minutes long, but Jieho Lee, who wrote and directed it, is a name to forget before it even reaches the halfway mark.