About forty-five minutes into Haven, I glanced down at my trusty notebook (which is almost impossible to make out in a pitch-black theater) and scribbled the words, "What the heck is this movie about?" With a number of characters and storylines to follow, it's fairly easy to compare Haven to a messy plate of delicious-looking pasta. While you know the food is probably scrumptious, there's a good chance you'll pass it up because, frankly, there's too much to consume and you don't feel like dirtying your hands, as well as that groovy shirt and pants combo.
In order to simplify things for you (and for me), Haven is basically split up into two separate stories, with multiple sub-plots linked to each one. With the exception of one or two scenes, the entire film is set in the Cayman Islands. However, the island's lush, picturesque landscape -- the one you remember from that vacation where you may have spent a little too much time lounging by the pool -- is replaced by a gritty, seedy underground world, complete with shady, white-collar Americans, drugs, sex, guns and murder.p>
As the film opens, we meet Carl Ridley (Bill Paxton), a corrupt (though extremely personable) businessman who, after failing to pay his taxes and involving himself in all the wrong deals, finds out (via fax) the feds are armed with a search warrant and headed to the beautiful Miami home he shares with his 18-year-old daughter Pippa (Agnes Bruckner). With only a few minutes to hide whatever it is he doesn't want found, Carl warmly greets the federal agents at his door, instructs his maid to give them free reign of the house, then promptly picks his reluctant daughter up from school and flees the country.
It isn't until shortly after the duo arrive in the Cayman Islands that we learn Carl has strapped roughly a million dollars to his body, eager to hide it in one of the area's many banks. However, with the day coming to a close, all local businesses are either closed or closing. Therefore, Carl and Pippa travel to his nearby condo, a place he owns but had never seen until now. Once inside the condo, Pippa discovers a local boy named Fritz (Victor Rasuk) had broken in and crashed for the night. Initially frazzled, Fritz calmly gathers his belongings and leaves, but not before attempting to flirt with what he believes is just another tourist looking for a good time. On the way out the door, Fritz manages to sneak a peak at Carl chucking stacks of money onto a bed in another room -- giving him the impression that, perhaps, these folks aren't just tourists.
While Carl frantically tries to contact his business associate in order to find out what his next move should be, Pippa, somewhat intrigued, sets out after Fritz. It doesn't take long for us to figure out that Fritz is a hustler -- the kind of guy who knows everyone on the island, though everyone wishes they didn't know him -- and, in an attempt to "get to know" Pippa a bit better, he invites her to a local party. At first reluctant, she finally gives in and accompanies Fritz to the birthday party of one of the island's most notorious drug dealers -- to whom, coincidentally, Fritz owes a lot of money. It's at this party that first-time director Frank E. Flowers finally gives us a dirty taste of island life, where the lines are clearly drawn and you're either one of us (a local) or one of them (a tourist). As Pippa attempts to mingle in an atmosphere that doesn't know, trust or care for her, Fritz heads off to try and solve his money problems by telling the drug dealer about Carl's stacks of cash. Later, after Pippa takes a few hits off the wrong pipe, Fritz gathers the girl up and breaks into a nearby boat, not necessarily for sex with Pippa, but to buy time while her dad is being robbed by some heavy-hitters, sporting an assortment of ammunition.
At this point, the film abruptly shifts, pulling us off Carl, Pippa and Fritz, and plopping us down in the company of a poor fisherman named Shy (Orlando Bloom) and an extremely misplaced voiceover. We soon learn that Shy witnessed the death of his father at an early age and, subsequently, has made a point to live a quiet life, with the exception of falling in love with his boss's daughter Andrea (Zoe Saldana). For my money, this is the more interesting of the two stories, as these lovers soon find themselves wrapped up in a Romeo and Juliet-type romance which ultimately results in Shy being falsely accused of rape.
However, because we've spent the last forty-five minutes or so invested in a completely different story, Flowers makes it almost impossible to connect with Shy, his lover and their impending doom. Though the stories find a way to link up and connect towards the end, Flowers spends way too much time throwing a number of different characters on our lap; half-way into the film, the audience has no idea who the important players are and which storylines to follow. That's not to say Flowers didn't have good intentions here -- born and raised in the Cayman Islands, he certainly captures the way life really is, outside of the ritzy resorts, high-priced t-shirts and tourist-infested booze cruises. However, the 24-year-old filmmaker probably would have benefited from going a simpler route, focusing on one story and providing us with a better, more complete look inside the world he obviously knows so well. While most critics will probably pan this movie for its lack of focus, Haven is not the terrible film folks make it out to be. Sure, it sat on the shelf for two years before landing in theaters, but its setting, themes and inter-connecting storylines are, in my opinion, worth at least one viewing, if not more. I'd recommend hitting up the flick when it arrives on DVD, and watching it with someone who tends not to over-analyze everything.