Durant's Never Closes


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Durant's Never Closes
"Durant's Never Closes is unlikely to be a breakthrough film, but where Durant is remembered as a local force to be reckoned with, it will have strong audience appeal."

An Arizona legend at one time listed by the FBI as among the most dangerous men in Phoenix, Jack Durant was a bar owner whose famous discretion meant he was privy to the darkest secrets of the rich, famous and powerful but never shared his own. Over the years he was linked to mob violence and even murder, but nothing was ever proved. Travis Mills' film, adapted from the play by Terry Earp, walks the tightrope of try to tell us about the man whilst preserving some of this mystery.

From the outset, the film is noticeably stronger than Mills' previous works, thanks in large part to the work of cinematographer Nikolai Fornwalt, who makes the most of the famously lush interiors of Durant's Steakhouse. Most of the story is told there, Durant reminiscing to a stranger at the bar, the only place where his life was on show. The tone is that of a confessional, a troubled man finally choosing to spill his secrets, but we never get far beneath the surface. Cautious as the film is, Tom Sizemore gives a strong performance in the lead, doing what he can to flesh out the character and help us understand how his frequent sweetness and generosity could sit side by side with a sometimes explosive temper. There's also a good performance from Michelle Stafford as one of the women he loved and bullied, and their scenes together are among the film's highlights, possessing an emotional power which is otherwise absent.

Copy picture

Mills' work has always suffered from a certain flatness of tone. It's alleviated here partly by those performances and partly by the occasional venture outside the bar to witness suspiciously convenient violence or, in one striking sequence, Durant's own experience of suffering. This is a moment that really gives Sizemore something to work with and helps him humanise an otherwise difficult man. Its stylish framing suggests a filmmaker beginning to find his voice.

Durant's Never Closes is unlikely to be a breakthrough film, but where Durant is remembered as a local force to be reckoned with, it will have strong audience appeal. It's at its best when daring to offer its own interpretations, not stick too closely to the version of himself that Durant chose to offer. Overall, it leave just a little too much mystery extant without making the unknown as intriguing as it ought to be.

One final note: don't stop watching when the credits start to roll. This is when we finally get to hear other people's opinions in Durant's absence, and it's one of the most interesting parts of the film.

Reviewed on: 05 Jan 2016
Share this with others on...
Durant's Never Closes packshot
A biopic of bar owner Jack Durant.

Director: Travis Mills

Writer: Travis Mills, based on the play by Terry Earp and the book by Mabel Leo

Starring: Tom Sizemore, Michelle Stafford, Peter Bogdanovich, Jon Gries, Mark Grossman, Renee Bryant

Year: 2016

Runtime: 80 minutes

Country: US


Search database: