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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir Bruce A Evans|
scr Bruce A Evans, Raynold Gideon
with Kevin Costner, Demi Moore, Dane Cook, William Hurt, Marg Helgenberger, Danielle Panabaker, Aisha Hinds, Lindsay Crouse, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Jason Lewis, Reiko Aylesworth, Matt Schulze
release US 1.Jun.07, UK 12.Oct.07
07/US MGM 2h00
Devil on my shoulder: Hurt and Costner
Twisty and seductive, this classy dramatic thriller has so much going on that we almost forget we're watching a trashy potboiler. Strong characters and a densely layered plot make it far more intriguing than it has a right to be.
Earl Brooks (Costner) is a pillar of the Portland community, but he's hiding a horrific addiction: he can't stop killing people. Over the years he has perfected the art of the serial murder, with his devilish alter ego Marshall (Hurt) egging him on. After a two year break, he's back, but a stranger named Smith (Cook) has seen him. Will he turn Brooks into Detective Atwood (Moore), who's been tenaciously hunting him for years? Or does he have a more sinister request?
Crisp scripting, sleek direction and heavily conflicted characters combine to make this provocatively entertaining. Everyone in this film has a demon that haunts him or her, which affects every decision they make, including several very bad ones. Beneath their cockiness and efficiency, each person is thoroughly damaged, and as the plot develops it's like a knot tightening around them, drawing them together into something truly creepy.
Costner and Moore are always terrific when they draw on their dark sides (see A Perfect World and Mortal Thoughts). Brooks is an intriguing bundle of conflicting emotions--ruthlessly proficient at killing and yet troubled beyond sanity. His interaction with Hurt zings with blackly goading wit. Meanwhile, Atwood is equally adept at her job, but caught between her unseen but ever-present father and her gold-digging ex (Lewis). Between them all, Cook is a marvellous mess of impulsive desire and transparent bluster.
And perhaps what makes this film so much fun is its complete lack of pretension. Director-cowriter seems to fully understand that this is a basic cat-and-mouse suspense flick, so he keeps things seductive, misleading and surprising, while giving us all this character depth as a bonus. The violence is genuinely vicious and horrific, never glamorised, and as the plot meaningfully expands to engulf Brooks' wife and daughter (Helgenberger and Panabaker), shifting into something even murkier and more psychotic, we realise how much we've missed films that are this tight and this unsettling.
phil, email: "Must agree. This is one brilliant thriller. Kostner back on form and ripe for a sequel me thinks? Great plot twists. Watch it and spend a great two hours in your life!" (26.Oct.07)
les, lincoln, uk: "i thought that this was going to be a 'wet sunday' sort of deal, something to watch to while away a few hours. but i was pleasently surprised at the quiality and strong performances from all the cast. while the story line is a pretty basic one, the direction and production values have lifted this film from a potential pot-boiler into a slendid work of cinema. Well worth a view." (18.Oct.07)
© 2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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