Inhale is a gloomy B-movie melodrama from Icelandic director Baltasar Komakur who made a strong US debut back in 2005 with the underground hit “A Little Trip to Heaven” starring future Oscar nominees Forrest Whitaker and Jeremy Renner. This time, with a far less flashy cast, Komakur is telling a story that, like a like “A Little Trip to Heaven,” is about money and the root of all evil.
“Inhale” stars Dermot Mulroney as upstanding New Mexico District Attorney Paul Stanton. Paul and his wife Diane (Inglorious Basterds siren Diane Kruger) have a daughter (Mia Stallard) who is dying from a rare lung disorder. She needs a lung transplant but she is far too low on a long list of people waiting for a transplant.
Desperate, Paul uses a tip from his doctor (Rosanna Arquette) to blackmail a powerful friend (Sam Shepard) who used some low connections in Mexico to get an illicit heart transplant. Soon, Paul is in Juarez Mexico knocking on doors and getting the holy hell beat of him in his pursuit of a group of American doctors performing transplants for those with the cash to pay to move to the front of the line.
Dermot Mulroney is an actor who was always handsome enough to become a crossover mainstream star but it just never happened. Whether it was just his choice of roles or a conscious attempt to avoid the trappings of becoming a star, Mulroney has always toiled on the edges of fame in the uncanny valley between direct to video and made for cable.
In “Inhale” Mulroney finds a meaty role and plays it with a stalwart bullheaded determination that is invigorating to an otherwise shoddy narrative. There is a good deal of stalling going on in “Inhale.” Director Komakur uses an unnecessary device, shifting between the present and past, as a way of padding out the story to a feature length.
Yes, the flashbacks lay the groundwork for Paul’s motivation but there were more efficient ways of delivering the same information. A scene involving two anonymous characters, a young boy and his mother, and a violent car wreck feels exploitatively violent even as the aftermath helps set the odds that Paul is facing in getting a legal transplant for his daughter.
Later, in scenes set in Juarez, Komakur makes yet another exploitative choice in setting Paul up for blackmail by the men from whom he is seeking a black market transplant. Certainly, there had to be a more elegant form of blackmail than this scene involving Paul and a transvestite hooker. The wreck and the transvestite are both unnecessary and ugly additions that serve only to make an already grim story grimmer while padding out a story that barely has the juice for a feature length.The violent car wreck, Paul’s repeated beatings and the transvestite distract and detract from a fine performance by Mulroney who nearly fights through it all to deliver the final blow in a surprising and unconventional finale. Sadly, as much as I enjoyed Mulroney’s performance and the underlying notion of the way rich people can treat the poor as commodities, right down to their organs, there is too much of Komakur’s absurd tendency toward B-Movie exploitation for me to recommend “Inhale.”