The New Gods

Austin Chronicle

DIRECTED BY: James Boyd

REVIEWED: 03-30-98

The New Gods is a poor man's Good Will Hunting, in which a young, once-in-a-generation mind (this time, he's a poet) is torn between his loyalty to the dead-end stomping ground of his youth and the future of far-flung fame and fortune that his talent promises. But The New Gods is missing out on the one element that made van Sant's film work: If you're already asking the audience to suspend its disbelief by making your protagonist the "best [fill in the blank] in the world" (especially when you can't prove it on screen - the film offers almost no examples of his poetry), then you had better take it to the hilt and make the whole affair sexy as hell, too. Unfortunately, the bland poet-protagonist bears no semblance to a hero, or even an anti-hero, and so the straw myth that the filmmaker has so precariously invited us into has no sustaining force - it topples around our heads before we've even begun. Add to this mix such weakly melodramatic elements as a sadistic law enforcement officer and a best friend up on a murder rap, and it becomes apparent that the film itself didn't trust the myth at the heart of its own story, either.

--Jerry Johnson

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