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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir Gregory Hoblit|
scr Daniel Pyne, Glenn Gers
with Anthony Hopkins, Ryan Gosling, David Strathairn, Billy Burke, Rosamund Pike, Cliff Curtis, Fiona Shaw, Embeth Davidtz, Bob Gunton, Zoe Kazan Xander Berkeley, Joe Spano
release US/UK 20.Apr.07
07/US New Line 1h53
Distracted but tenacious: Gosling
Slick and seductive, this twisty thriller at times feels like an ambitious episode of a cops-and-lawyers TV series, elevated by sharp direction and an especially strong cast.
Jennifer Crawford (Davidtz) is having an affair with a cop (Burke), and her husband Ted (Hopkins) knows it. A meticulous aerospace engineer, Ted plots the perfect murder, then makes sure the District Attorney (Strathairn) puts cocky deputy Willy Beachum (Gosling) on the case. Willy's distracted by a job offer from a big-name law firm, so he takes his eye off the ball and an elaborate cat-and-mouse game begins, with Ted's life and Willy's career on the line. If Ted's theory is true, that everything has an exploitable flaw, then where's the flaw in Ted's plan?
Half the fun is watching Hopkins in cruise control as a man who delights in fiendishly tormenting others with his massive brain. Yes, he's channelling Hannibal Lecter down to the smallest detail: flared nostril, rolled eyeball, quavering vowel. Even better is Shaw's trial judge, who looks like she's literally smelling something fishy. Meanwhile, Gosling is clearly having a great time as a smart and arrogant bundle of tics and quirks who's stupidly preoccupied by trying to get his sexy new boss (Pike) into bed.
The plot is thoroughly gripping--not a whodunit at all, but rather a howdunit as our brains spin trying to sort out the nagging clues as to the crime itself and how Ted might be caught. Because of course we know he must be. And along the way, the filmmakers pack the screen with red herrings, lively comedy and bristling characters. The dialog is much snappier than most films in this genre, playfully indulging in a bit of both arch campness and bone-dry wit.
Hoblit directs with a purring, glossy sheen that makes the most of each carefully designed set. As he drops hints and innuendo all over the place, we know there will be several bombshells along the way. And with a film this gleefully convoluted, we know we'll never figure it out before the screenwriters are ready to tell us. So we hang on and enjoy the ride.
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© 2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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