One Viggo Mortensen is more than enough. Two Viggos, too much. In Everybody Has a Plan, a dreary little misfire from Argentina in which he speaks fluent but mumbled Spanish, he plays identical twin brothers up to their beards in confusion and crime. My boy Viggo is always fascinating, but the movie is a concept searching for a story.
Agustín Souto is a successful pediatrician who lives a comfortable life with a wife of eight years and a posh apartment in Buenos Aires. But he’s moody and miserable to the point of catatonia, locking himself in his study and giving in to depression. When his wife, Claudia, fills out papers to adopt a baby, his mounting stress, gnawing insecurity and increasing boredom come to a head and he withdraws from the reality of his unfulfilled existence. While Claudia is away on a business trip, his twin brother, Pedro, arrives unexpectedly with terminal brain cancer and begs his brother to kill him. Pedro is a beekeeper who lives an isolated existence in the remote Tigre Delta, a series of islands and rivers negotiable only by small boats that once served as a holiday retreat for the rich and famous (think the Hamptons without SUVs) but is now a hotbed of crime populated by gangsters, outcasts and convicts. Agustín sees the chance to put a perfect plan in motion. It’s a shock to watch one Viggo drown another Viggo in a bathtub, but there he goes, escaping to the island where the two boys spent their childhood in hopes of taking over Pedro’s hives and honey, assuming his identity and starting a new life. Little does he know of the complex criminal activities Pedro was involved in, including kidnapping, a ransom to be divided between rival backwater thugs and murder. Between bee stings, he’s sought by crooks and cops alike, beaten, arrested, handcuffed, fingerprinted and tortured. Meanwhile, back in Buenos Aires, his anguished wife, who believes she’s now a widow, begins an investigation of her own that leads to the island and an eventual confrontation with the man she believes to be Pedro. Clearly, Agustín needs another plan—for survival. But as whom?
Despite all of the tangles and twists, this is a movie that is basically about not much of anything. A debut feature by writer-director Ana Piterbarg, there is almost no character development or cohesive narrative to be found. It is never clear why Agustín feels so doomed in his civilized metropolitan existence, why he wants to trade affluence and respect for the life of a filthy backwoods bum in a murky swamp, or why he adapts so easily (and eagerly) to his brother’s criminal past, adjusting quickly to a long list of betrayals, murders and dangerous characters at cross-purposes. An unceasing lack of suspense makes for dull viewing, with a good two-thirds of the movie consisting of wasteful subplots (such as an implausible romance with a duplicitous and very unattractive young river-trash beekeeper) to distract the viewer from the sad fact that nothing is really happening here, and repetitive scenes in which Agustín explores his surroundings with blank stares. I, for one, have come to expect so much more from the charismatic star.
Rugged, two-fisted Viggo has never been scruffier, or more mysterious. He has a quiet, concentrated intensity that informs all of his work, but is less effective in Spanish. He lived in Argentina for 10 years of his youth and has reportedly been searching for a film that would bring him back, all expenses paid. This is not the ideal fit. Still, it must be reiterated that as the whole thing mopes and slogs its way toward an empty, unsatisfactory finale, Viggo’s performance is the only payoff for the patience you will need to get through Everybody Has a Plan.
EVERYBODY HAS A PLAN
Running Time 118 minutes
Written by Ana Piterbarg and Ana Cohan
Directed by Ana Piterbarg
Starring Viggo Mortensen, Soledad Villamil and Daniel Fanego