The cinema of filmmaker Wim Wenders is one of doomed possibility, wary trust and questionable redemption, themes that have informed the work of this German director for the past 30 years. Wenders' first movie, Summer in the City, took its name from a Lovin' Spoonful song and was dedicated to the Kinks, a rock band on the perpetual edge of despair, if ever there was one. Wenders' Paris, Texas won the Palme d'Or in 1984, and three years later, he was given the Best Director prize for his wistful and transcendent Wings of Desire, a homage to hip, lovesick angels that celebrates Rilke, Handke and Leonard Cohen. Several years ago, Wenders' championing of The Buena Vista Social Club helped to bring some brilliant, long-neglected Cuban musicians back into the limelight. Is this filmmaker cool or what?

Well, maybe not this time out. In spite of its name, The Million Dollar Hotel turns out to be almost as shabby as its name. Wenders' tale is something of an ensemble effort presided over by Tom Tom (Jeremy Davies), a sweet-natured presence who sees the hotel as something of a refuge, with its denizens--dreamy innocents, mostly, save for the more disturbed--as his charges, so to speak.

Tom Tom harbors a needy love for Eloise (Milla Jovovich), but this "street angel" keeps him at bay, thanks also to the hotel guests who keep a protective eye on her. Dixie (Peter Stormare) adds a touch of Liverpool and the late John Lennon. The hotel's misfit charm is disturbed when one of the tenants, the likeable junky Izzy (Tim Roth), comes to a sad end. Soon after, FBI detective Skinner (Mel Gibson) launches an investigation that will impact on all of the hotel's residents. Talk about your usual suspects.

Often linked with 1970s German filmmakers Werner Herzog and the late Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Wenders was never as obsessed as the former or as prolific as the latter. More to the point, Wenders threw down his cinematic markers some time ago, but his IOUs are still negotiable even when he dabbles in poetic whodunits, which is essentially what The Million Dollar Hotel is all about. One can only guess that the eponymous hotel serves as a metaphor for all the misunderstood artists and misfits of the world. For those who take a more whimsical approach, all that's missing is Colonel Mustard with a lead pipe.

--Ed Kelleher