Sometimes it’s hard to know who’s responsible when a movie doesn’t work. If the director has a strong track record, it’s easy to blame the credited screenwriter—especially when the dialogue is as consistently atrocious as it is in Tomorrow You’re Gone, a dismal erotic thriller that was originally called Boot Tracks. Fans of David Jacobson’s last film, the little-seen and underrated Down In The Valley, may therefore assume that he was forced by circumstance to take on Matthew F. Jones’ crappy script, adapted from his own novel. Given that Jones sued the filmmakers two years ago for compromising his vision, however, that assessment may be a bit hasty. In the end, all that really matters is that an hour and a half of depositions from the court case would surely be more far more interesting and less torturous than the movie itself.
For some reason, Stephen Dorff has been cast yet again as… anybody. In this particular case, he’s a taciturn ex-con who’s been tasked by a mysterious handler known as The Buddha (Willem Dafoe) to pull the usual one last job: killing a specified target. It’s a relatively simple assignment for a hitman, yet Dorff seems in no hurry to get started, instead developing a turgid romance with a random woman (Michelle Monaghan) he encounters on a bus. After Dorff botches the job, potentially leaving the victim’s wife alive as a witness, he and Monaghan hit the road, apparently planning to kill The Buddha should they meet him there. (It’s entirely possible that Dafoe’s character was given that ridiculous name for exactly that dumbass reason.) And that’s about it, really. Everything else amounts to a battle between Dorff’s sullen mumbling and Monaghan’s kewpie-doll routine, along with some vague suggestions that Monaghan may not actually exist.
Jacobson keeps things cryptic at the outset, shooting scenes with a slightly hallucinatory shimmer that suggests a deeply troubled mind. With a stronger actor than Dorff, that might have worked for more than about 10 minutes; as it is, the film fairly quickly collapses into stilted tedium, with only Monaghan’s natural vivaciousness preventing it from collapsing under the weight of its own faux-gravity and becoming a cinematic black hole. And whether it was Jones, Jacobson, or some wiseacre of an extra who substituted fake pages on the set one day—that last option is arguably the most credible—there’s no excuse for such deathless lines as The Buddha’s admonition to Dorff: “You know what they say—the eyes are the window to the soul. You gotta learn how to draw your curtains.” Jones’ lawsuit included an injunction to prevent Tomorrow You’re Gone from being commercially released; that it was lifted did nobody involved any favors.