Original Sin
Lead us into temptation. Mr & Mrs Vargas (Jolie and Banderas) hit the hot tub...
dir-scr Michael Cristofer
with Antonio Banderas, Angelina Jolie, Thomas Jane, Jack Thompson, Gregory Itzin, Allison Mackie, Joan Pringle, Cordelia Richards, James Haven, Pedro Armendariz, Mario Ivan Martinez, Harry Porter
release US 3.Aug.01; UK 28.Sep.01
MGM
01/US 1h56

2 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
lead us into temptation There's a real attempt here to recreate those sumptuous costume romances from the Golden Age of Hollywood with this noirish take on late-1800s Cuba. But it's closer to late-night on Channel 5. The story follows Luis Vargas (Banderas) a handsome and wealthy Cuban businessman who for some inexplicable reason buys himself a mail-order bride from America. When she arrives, Julia (Jolie) looks nothing like her picture--much to Luis' relief!--and the two are soon married and entangled in very steamy 21st Century-style sex scenes. Then Julia's identity is called into question by a nosy private detective (Jane) and things start to twist and turn.

It's not nearly as complicated as it seems, since there are really only three characters in the story; and it's not difficult to keep their identities straight, even if they keep changing them. But what the film has in terms of production design it lacks in substance. For all the glamorous costumes, settings, hair-dos and makeup, the story just isn't that gripping. And the plot and dialogue are increasingly silly, getting downright laughable as the story lumbers through yet another tricky plot development. Banderas is a magnetic presence in his scenes, but Jolie simply can't handle this kind of role--she isn't believable for a minute. They never have any real chemistry, despite the valiant attempts of writer-director Cristofer to inject passion into every contrived scene. Soon their dialogue becomes ludicrously camp, their bedroom scenes are basically soft porn, and their plight is too artificially heightened to let us care. Basically, this is just one of those cases in which a lot of talent has been squandered on a misguided film project that never had much promise to begin with. And the biggest crime is that it isn't even trashy enough to be fun.
adult themes and situations, violence, nudity cert 18 11.Sep.01

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
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2001 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall

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