2 out of 5 stars
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Tabloid Making a black comedy about tabloid television is a very tricky thing, because it's basically already a parody of itself. I wonder if anyone will ever manage to do it successfully, because this one doesn't quite work. Darren Daniels (Rhys) has turned himself into a huge star with his edgy, live Tabloid TV programme, during which he embarrasses celebrities by dragging skeletons out of their cupboards. So it's no surprise that someone decides to turn the tables on him. But who will it be? His producer ex-girlfriend (Mastrantonio), a mysterious mobster (Hurt), a slimy journalist (Tompkinson), his goofy-but-ambitious sidekick (Dyer), an oily American TV exec (Soul) or an artist-friend (Creed-Miles) who's one of Darren's recent victims. Throw in a couple of nubile twins (Holloway and Thomas) as bait and things start to get very messy indeed.

Well-produced, with a nice visual sense, lurid cinematography and a surging score by Anne Dudley, the film starts out well. Rhys carries the central role with energy and attitude, nicely flipping from on-screen charmer to off-screen monster (Chris Evans could probably sue). And the supporting cast is fairly good fun, with the possible exception of Hurt's irritatingly gravel-voiced thug. But the filmmakers never make anything of it--they refuse to comment significantly on the barrage of humiliation TV and only barely tap into the empty glamour of the media culture. Instead, they try to create a thriller with a sense of impending nastiness and a series of increasingly boneheaded scenes that ring completely false (anybody, even Darren, would just call the police after the first event). As it progresses the filmmakers get far too clever, deliberately withholding key elements and dropping tantalising hints everywhere, as if we still cared. And the climactic sequence is as excruciating as the similar scene in Citizen Verdict--false malevolence and an improbable crisis of conscience that's both overwritten and heavy-handed. It ends up feeling corny and ridiculous. Ah well.

cert 18 themes, language, drugs, sex, violence 16.Oct.03

dir David Blair
scr Martin Stellman, Brian Ward
with Matthew Rhys, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Danny Dyer, John Hurt, Stephen Tompkinson, David Soul, Charlie Creed-Miles, Art Malik, Stefano Accorsi, Vicky Holloway, Vikki Thomas, Dawn Steele
release UK Feb.04
03/UK 1h37

Art imitates life: Creed-Miles paints Rhys on the wall...

rhys mastrantonio dyer
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2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall