Blu-ray Review: The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

STUDIO: Screen Media | DIRECTOR: Terry Gilliam | CAST: Jonathan Pryce, Adam Driver, Joana Ribeiro, Will Keen, Jason Watkins, Stellan Skarsgard, Olga Kurylenko
RELEASE DATE: June 4, 2019 | PRICE: DVD $21.59, Blu-ray $18.57
SPECS: NR | 143 min. | Comedy | 2.35:1 widescreen | stereo
RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie 

Terry Gilliam’s (The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Brazil) decades-in-the-making fantasy adventure The Man Who Killed Don Quixote has had its near-disastrous production history chronicled extensively over the years in print and even in a fine feature-length 2002 documentary Lost in La Mancha. Finally, the film has arrived, with last-minute glitches along the way—lawsuits! distributors bailing out!—down the homestretch.

The film stars Adam Driver (Paterson) as Toby, a once-promising filmmaker shooting an elaborate commercial in Spain. A DVD of a student film he helmed about Don Quixote surfaces, inspiring Toby to go AWOL and visit a village which served as a location for his early movie. There, he discovers a woman he was involved with (Joana Ribeiro, The Black Book) has become a prostitute and the shoemaker who played Don Quixote (Jonathan Pryce, The Wife) believes he actually is  Cervantes’s fictional character.

Soon, director Toby finds himself playing the part of Sancho Panza, joining the Quixote/cobbler on a wild quest that includes tackling obstacles real and imaginary and visiting a wild medieval-themed party at a castle thrown by Toby’s boss (Stellan Skarsgard, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and his wife (Olga Kurylenko, The Death of Stalin), who happens to be Toby’s secret lover.

Written by Gilliam and frequent collaborator Tony Grisoni, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote travels down the path the director has travelled before, tackling his trademark theme of how imagination can transform the harshness of reality and show people a new, better way.

True to form, much of the comedy here is antic and physical, but much of it seems out-of-synch. The timing is off and the physical shtick is overdone, so it all becomes wearisome after a while. A Russian oligarch, a Trump joke and a few nods to the film’s long-in-progress history are also part of the stew.

In the acting department, the reliable Pryce is fine as the frenzied, chivalrous lead adventurer, but the ubiquitous Driver as his surrogate squire is irritating throughout: At times he seems to be impersonating Jeff Goldblum at his most anxious. And none of the performers in the solid supporting cast register anything memorable, although there is a donkey that gets some laughs.

Like another forever-in-the-works magnum opus that finally arrived last year—Orson Welles’s The Other Side of the Wind–The Man Who Killed Don Quixote received a very limited theatrical showcase. Curiosity seekers and Gilliam loyal fans will no doubt seek out the title, anxiously anticipating the opportunity to deem whether the film is movie magic, Gilliam style or simply tilting at windmills.

Buy or Rent The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.