Writer/director John Herzfeld (15 Minutes, Two of a Kind) earnestly tries and spectacularly fails to dilute the acrid pretentiousness of Reach Me, a tone-deaf everything-is-connected melodrama, by cutting his characters' pseudo-enlightened philosophizing with goony broad humor.
Herzfeld wants ideal viewers to identify with Roger (Kevin Connolly), an online yellow journalist who overcomes his initial disbelief and heeds authorial voice Teddy (Tom Berenger), a self-help guru whose trite individualist ideology boils down to "Courage means moving forward in spite of your fears."
But while Roger's character-defining skepticism makes him semi-relatable, all of Herzfeld's other protagonists are either painfully earnest personifications or tediously manic counterexamples of Teddy's teachings. Some, like lovesick ex-con Colette (Kyra Sedgwick) and dim-witted mob enforcer Dominic (David O'Hara), are defined by their rapturous interest in Roger's book. Others, like fast-talking gossip-monger Gerald (Sylvester Stallone) and insecure small-time gangster Frank (Tom Sizemore), are defined by their knee-jerk rage. All are human-shaped talking points that illustrate Teddy's theory of six great universal fears, including "fear of going broke" and "fear of abandonment."
Of these secondary characters, Gerald is the most embarrassing, since he is Teddy's most outspoken critic. Stallone breathlessly plows through bitterly unfunny, pseudo–Paddy Chayefskyian diatribes -- "People are more interested in what's going on in their underpants than in their souls" -- and Johnnie Cochran–like aphorisms -- "His destruction is your salvation." Reach Me is consistently tone-deaf, but the combination of Stallone's campy performance and Herzfeld's defensive dialogue is the stuff that so-bad-it's-good movie cultists dream of.