The Air I Breathe (2007)

Genre(s): Crime / Drama
THINKFilm || R - 95 minutes - $27.98 || May 20, 2008
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2008-05-30

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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.

.:: A U D I O ::.

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Director: Jieho Lee
Writer(s): Jieho Lee & Bob DeRosa (written by)
Cast: Kevin Bacon, Julie Delpy, Brendan Fraser, Andy Garcia, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Clark Gregg, Emile Hirsch, Forest Whitaker, Kelly Hu

Theatrical Release Date: January 25, 2008

Supplemental Material:
  • Filmmakers' Commentary
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Outtakes
  • Theatrical Trailer

Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (2.40)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.


The ensemble drama is probably one of my favorite subgenre as you get to see talented actors intertwined around interesting stories. But sometimes these stories can be convoluted but when you have a charismatic cast with a half-decent plot that ties everything together, then you got a winning formula. While I don’t consider The Air I Breathe a perfect ensemble piece, the way co-writer/director Jieho Lee joins the stories, it’s a fairly cool revelation.

The Air I Breathe is based upon a Chinese proverb breaking down life by four principles: happiness, pleasure, sorrow and love. The movie takes each in a separate, but connected, storyline.

The first stars Forest Whitaker as “Happiness”, a shy and bored banker who overhears a sure-winning bet from his co-workers. He follows them to a shady betting club and puts down $50 large on the “winning” horse only to be horrified that the horse loses. Now, the owner, Fingers (Andy Garcia), wants to be paid up within two weeks. Not having the collateral to pay off the bet, what is he to do?

Next one features “Pleasure” played by Brendan Fraser. Fraser is the right hand man/goon for Fingers. He spends his nights collecting on late payments and beating up anybody who doesn’t pay up. Unlike his boss, however, he is a bit soft spoken and wants to give others a break. In this story, he’s in charge of taking Fingers’ nephew (Emile Hirsch) out on the town to show how things are done. Oh, and did I forget to mention “Pleasure” is clairvoyant?

Story 3 follows Kevin Bacon as “Love”, a doctor who has a serious crush on his best friend’s wife (Julie Delpy), a woman he had the chance to marry at one time. The wife, Gina, specializes in finding cures for diseases by examining and extracting snake venom. Unfortunately, one of the very poisonous snakes bites her and she needs a blood transfusion to save her life... but she has an extremely rare blood type.

And the final story is about “Sorrow” played by the always lovely Sarah Michelle Gellar. “Sorrow” is an up-and-coming pop princess (think on-the-edge-of-crazy Britney Spears and/or Lindsay Lohan) whose manager sells her contract to pay off some unsettled payments to, guess who, Fingers. “Sorrow” is a messed up little girl living in a woman’s body and still feeling the effects of the untimely death of her father.

The Air I Breathe, on the whole, is certainly a good movie. At the same time, it is also uneven. Without spoiling a semi-big plot point, there is a moment where a very serious thing happens but instead of having a dramatic impact, it came across as dark comedy. But save for that one scene, I did enjoy this movie for an ensemble of fine performances and a story that connect each segment without coming across as convoluted or tedious.

The way writers Jieho Lee and Bob DeRosa connect each story with each other is pretty cool and although sometimes the connections are obvious, they still don’t stretch the believable in the context of the plot. But one final connection, at the end, is finely executed that it makes any flaws with the story itself forgivable.

Ensemble movies are made or trashed solely on the story, no matter how good or bad the cast is. Take for instance Southland Tales, a film that splits many talkers on the Net, for which I’m on the negative side as the story, even when it did make sense, didn’t affect me in any way, forget about poor/unappealing characters and a one-sided slant. However, I still respect the movie for impressive appearances by Seann William Scott, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and... Sarah Michelle Gellar.

Gellar’s performance in The Air I Breathe was actually quite notable as she shows she can keep up with the best like Andy Garcia, Forest Whitaker and Kevin Bacon, all of whom, along with Brendan Fraser, also do fine jobs with their characters. I can honestly say there is not one actor in this film that doesn’t keep up with the others, they each give it their all and propel a flawed story and take it up a level.

No, I don’t feel The Air I Breathe is some kind of masterpiece, but as an exercise in how an ensemble drama (contrast with the ensemble heists like Ocean’s Eleven, etc.) can be done right, it passes with flying colors. I definitely say this is a recommended viewing.


Feature Commentary – The commentary track consists of Director/Co-Writer Jieho Lee, Co-Writer Bob DeRosa, Director of Photography Walt Lloyd and Editor Robert Hoffman. The group sticks to the trivia facts of the production (filming in Mexico City, screenplay elements, etc.). Generally it’s an OK commentary but there are a few pauses occasionally. With a big cast like this, including one or two of them would’ve been cool. However, on this track, they do mention deleted scenes that are not on this disc (along with Gellar’s faux music video), two things that would’ve made good additions.

Deleted Scenes (5:04) – Four scenes have been included on the disc, two of them are alternate scenes centered around Forest Whitaker, the third an alternate introduction to Emile Hirsch’s character, but it was the fourth scene that I liked the most and would’ve liked to have seen back in. This one has Kevin Bacon giving a checkup to Julie Delpy and the chemistry between the two was absolutely magical; shame they removed it.

Some outtakes (2:06) and the beautiful theatrical trailer (2:28) are also included.



The Air I Breathe is presented in anamorphic widescreen with a 2.40 OAR. As far as I could tell, the film itself looks good. I didn’t notice any dust or scratches so overall it looks clean. This is a darker movie (most of it takes place at night it seems) so black tones also look fine.

The disc features a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 track, along with an English 2.0 one, and it sounds alright, but it seems the dialogue at times was a bit too light. Everything else: music, gunshots, etc sound incredible but I was a little disappointed with the dialogue aspect.


Despite its flaws and a unintentially funny scene, The Air I Breathe is a worthy film just for the performances alone. The story is also nicely written and each of the four storylines ties quite well together, avoiding a convoluted mess that sometimes arise in the multi-story drama genre. The DVD isn’t very well packed with features but given a low budget and limited theatrical release, to get anything is nice.