The Movie Report
Volume 24

#113 - 116
October 17, 1997 - November 6, 1997

all movies are graded out of four stars (****)

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#116 November 6, 1997 by Michael Dequina


Starship Troopers poster Starship Troopers (R) ** 1/2
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Starship Troopers is Paul Verhoeven's return to familiar sci-fi ground after the disastrous Showgirls, and it just might be the quintessential Verhoeven film. While it is not a complete rebound from the instant camp classic of '95, it is a shining example of Verhoeven at his best--and, unfortunately, his worst.

Based on the Robert A. Heinlein novel of the same name, Starship Troopers details mankind's future war with giant bugs from outer space. Why have these alien arthropods decided to pick a fight with Earthlings? We never find out, not that it matters. The wild and woolly battles with the CGI bugs find the Dutch Verhoeven, who made his name in America with the superlative sci-fi actioners RoboCop and Total Recall, back in top form. No other action director can make mass impalings, decapitations, and dismemberment so sadistically--and gleefully--over-the-top. More prudish viewers may find the bloody action repugnant, but the gruesome, almost cartoonish, nature of the violence is exactly what makes Verhoeven adventures so much fun.

Unfortunately, aside from a brief snippet of opening bug action, there is an often laughable first hour of exposition and uninspired soap opera subplots, during which we meet our focal slate of stock characters: Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien), hotshot soldier; his demure girlfriend, Carmen Ibanez (Denise Richards), a military pilot; brash Dizzy Flores (Dina Meyer), who carries a torch for the oblivious Johnny; pilot Zander Barcalow (Patrick Muldoon), Johnny's rival for Carmen's affections; and Carl Jenkins (Neil Patrick Harris), an intelligence officer whose psychic abilities only extend to animals. Every film needs its expository time, and this section of the film is an obvious timekiller before the war heats up, but Verhoeven and screenwriter Ed Neumeier put forth very little effort, if any, to make these characters and their situations halfway interesting. More energy and thought is expended in the acidly satiric news bites and fascistic military recruitment propaganda that pepper this first half. How do the filmmakers expect the viewers to care about the characters if they obviously do not?

If anything could have saved this first hour and more "dramatic" moments that come later in the film, it would be the acting, but, as so painfully exemplified in Showgirls, Verhoeven does not have much of an eye for young talent. Van Dien, whom I remember not-so-fondly from his stints on ABC Daytime's One Life to Live and the deliciously cheesy but little-seen 1990 syndicated women-in-prison soap Dangerous Women, can bark out "Kill 'em all!" with the best of them, but he has little acting skill to offer beside his square jaw. It also does not help that he, Richards, and Meyer make the WASPiest Argentines since... well, Jonathan Pryce in Evita; and that they, Harris, and Muldoon look much too old to be the high schoolers their characters are supposed to be at the film's opening. The only cast member displaying some signs of life--aside from Michael Ironside, who is usual stern, effective self as teacher/commanding officer Jean Rasczak--is Meyer, who infuses Dizzy with moxie and spunk.

And while Verhoeven is miles away from Joe Eszterhas (thankfully so), some post-Showgirls fallout is still in evidence, most blatantly in a ridiculously gratuitous co-ed shower scene, and more subtly so in its anti-feminism. I usually do not like to include spoilers in my reviews, but I cannot address this point without giving something away, so skip the next paragraph if you wish not to have some details spoiled...

When a male character is able to destroy a humongous tanker bug, he is celebrated as a hero; when a female character does the same--which no other person save that one male is able to do--she receives no credit. A female soldier mortally wounded in combat bravely accepts her impending death, but not because she did her part in saving the human race. In the end, her passing is worth it to her because... she had the chance to sleep with a studly conquest. A female character supplies a critical coup de grace against the aliens, but who is carried on everyone's shoulders like a hero at the end? A male who did not do much of anything.

Its problems aside, Starship Troopers does deliver what the audience comes for, which is two-plus hours of no-brainer entertainment, filled with the graphic ultraviolence that has become associated with the name Paul Verhoeven. But as fun as much of the movie is, its superficiality is quite dismaying coming from Verhoeven, who once upon a time melded electrifying action with plot and character in RoboCop and Total Recall. Starship Troopers is not the return to form for Verhoeven many have called it--in the end, it is just a step in the right direction, albeit a fairly entertaining one.

Washington Square poster The Wings of the Dove poster Washington Square (PG) ***
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The Wings of the Dove (R) *** 1/2
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With each fall movie season comes a rash of literary adaptations dangled like bait in the Academy voter pool, and more often than not these films derive from the work of a single classic author. This year's featured author is Henry James, whose Washington Square and The Wings of the Dove are brought to the screen in intelligent, skillfully crafted translations that tower over last year's James adaptation, Jane Campion's maddeningly obtuse The Portrait of a Lady.

Washington Square centers on the romance between gawky, naive Catherine Sloper (Jennifer Jason Leigh), the daughter of the wealthy Dr. Austin Sloper (Albert Finney), and dashing but penniless Morris Townsend (Ben Chaplin). Naturally, their relationship does not sit well with Austin, who suspects Morris's true motives--after all, how could a poor young man honestly be enamored by the meek and woefully unrefined Catherine?--and does all within his power to keep his daughter and the suspected golddigger apart.

Agnieszka Holland's film is a joy to look at, yet for a film that focuses on a grand passion, the final product is strangely cold and distant. But that shortcoming is made up for by the work of the cast. Leigh may sound like a peculiar casting choice for a costume drama, but her trademark mannerisms and mumbly elocution are a perfect fit for the insecure, awkward Catherine. She has a nice rapport with the charming Chaplin, who sports a convincing Yank accent. Finney's Austin makes a despicable, yet archly funny, villain, and Maggie Smith provides some delightful comic relief as Catherine's hopelessly romantic Aunt Lavinia.

A more involving James adaptation is Iain Softley's swifter-moving and more understated The Wings of the Dove, which takes a more complex slant on the rich girl-poor boy romance. The woman of wealth here is Kate Croy (Helena Bonham Carter), who has a forbidden affair with common journalist Merton Densher (Linus Roache). Kate and Merton long to marry, but Kate refuses to give up her lofty position in society and the luxuries her snobby aunt (Charlotte Rampling) provides her. When wealthy, ailing American Milly Theale (Alison Elliott) arrives in London, Kate and a reluctant Merton engage in a cruel scheme that could ultimately enable them to marry without sacrificing Kate's riches.

What makes Wings soar above the fairly black-and-white Washington are the richly shaded characters and relationships, brought to vivid life by the central trio of actors. Despite her character's evil plot, Bonham Carter never allows the audience to lose the feeling that Kate truly does care about Milly--it's just that she cares about herself even more. Predictably, Merton develops feelings for Milly as well, but Softley and Roache wisely do not spell out whom he loves more, which creates genuine dramatic tension. Milly is weak in body, but deceptively so; inside she is strong in spirit and quite clear of mind. The sparkling Elliott, who was just about the only redeeming quality of last year's dreadfully overwrought Sundance sensation The Spitfire Grill, delivers a quiet performance that is astonishing in its power, most notably during a climactic tête-à-tête between Milly and Merton.

Whether or not Washington Square and The Wings of the Dove, which have both received favorable notices from critics, garner the hoped-for Oscar nominations remains to be seen; there is no question, however, that they are both quality pieces of filmmaking, with Wings being the worthier contender.

In Brief

Bean poster Bean (PG-13) ***
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I have never seen more than two minutes of a Mr. Bean episode while channel surfing, and thus the appeal of Rowan Atkinson's goofy yet wildly popular British TV character had always escaped me. But after watching Mel Smith's hilariously silly big screen Bean, the reason why this film has already amassed a surprisingly robust box office take of $125 million before opening in America could not be clearer--the considerable comic talents of Atkinson.

The screenplay by Four Weddings and a Funeral scripter Richard Curtis (who "devised" the Mr. Bean character with Atkinson) and Robin Driscoll does not offer much in the way of plot; the film hangs upon a very basic premise (inept, clumsy London National Art Gallery employee Bean is sent to a Los Angeles gallery as an art expert). Also, Smith's direction quickly settles into a predictable set-up-and-follow rhythm (Bean is left alone; Bean gets himself into all sorts of screwball trouble; people react). But the gags are hilarious, thanks in large part to Atkinson, who is a truly gifted silent comedian. Mr. Bean hardly speaks at all, and Atkinson is able to hit the comic jackpot through grunts, gestures, body movements, and, most of all, facial expressions. But this is not to say things are not funny on the rare occasion he does utter a word; some of the biggest laughs come during a climactic speech he is forced to deliver. Providing a terrific foil to Atkinson's slapstick antics is Peter MacNicol as the curator of the Los Angeles gallery; his harried and neurotic straight man makes a perfect Cousin Larry to Atkinson's twisted and demented (to the extreme) Balki. Note to those planning to see the film: sit through the end credits.

Mad City poster Mad City (PG-13) ** 1/2
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John Travolta plays Sam Baily, a laid-off museum security guard in Madeline, California who, in a fit of rage, takes his boss (Blythe Danner) and a class of young children hostage at gunpoint, inadvertently wounding a former co-worker (Bill Nunn). Trapped in the museum with the hostages is Max Brackett (Dustin Hoffman), an unscrupulous television news reporter who advises the naive Sam in his crime, exploiting the situation to benefit his floundering career.

Director Costa-Gavras and screenwriter Tom Matthews tackle a provocative issue--the nature of the news media in today's society--which is a lot more than one can say about a lot of Hollywood product these days. But the film has nothing new to say about it; "the media are vultures" is the prevailing point here, and it is not expressed in the most original or interesting of ways. In addition to the central Max/Sam story, "the most trusted newsman in America," network anchor Kevin Hollander (Alan Alda) is just as dirty and sensationalistic, if not more, than his bottom-feeding contemporaries; and innocent local news intern Laurie Callahan (Mia Kirshner) is corrupted when she becomes a network reporter overnight--literally.

Keeping the proceedings watchable and somewhat involving is the byplay between Hoffman and Travolta. Hoffman is terrific, very convincing as a sleaze while believably developing some seeds of a conscience as the film progresses. Travolta fares less well on individual terms; his overly mannered performance pales in comparison to most of his recent work. But his innate likability cannot help but endear the audience to Sam and his plight, even if its ultimate resolution is--quite literally--overblown.

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#115 October 30, 1997 by Michael Dequina


A Life Less Ordinary poster A Life Less Ordinary (R) 1/2*
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While the extremely peculiar A Life Less Ordinary does live up to its title, a more appropriate moniker would be A Movie More Misguided, for this confused, confusing attempt at romantic comedy is a most disarming disaster from the talented Trainspotting team of director Danny Boyle, producer Andrew Macdonald, and screenwriter John Hodge.

At the core of this strange film is a fairly basic--and, yes, ordinary--premise. After Robert (Boyle regular Ewan McGregor), an aspiring writer of trashy novels, is fired from his janitorial job at the Naville Corporation, he kidnaps Naville's (Ian Holm) spoiled daughter Celine (Cameron Diaz) and holds her for ransom. The joke here is that Celine is a willing victim--her father threatened to cut her off financially, so she wants revenge--and that she soon becomes not only an accomplice but the brains behind the scheme, teaching the inept Robert a thing or two about kidnapping... and, ultimately (didn't we see this one coming?), love.

So far, so mediocre. But mediocre is better than dreadful, which this film is, thanks in no small part to the Hodge's contextual frame for the romance. It turns out that God is displeased with the divorce and romantic breakup rate on earth, so the chief of Heaven's police, Gabriel (Dan Hedaya) dispatches two angels, O'Reilly (Holly Hunter) and Jackson (Delroy Lindo), to earth to hook up Celine and Robert--or lose their angel status. This conceit might have worked if the angel dimension played an integral role in theentire picture. But it could have easily been cut without any clear loss to the film; as it stands, it is simply a waste of time that distracts from the romance at hand.

Not that there is much of a romance to begin with. Try as Diaz and McGregor may, Celine and Robert are too one-note to become very endearing characters. Celine is rich bitch; Robert is a dullard. As such, it is quite hard for the audience to really connect with these two--then again, they never seem to really connect with each other. When Celine and Robert start to overtly act on their "feelings," it comes off more like something scripted than anything natural.

But I am not exactly sure if Boyle and company's point was romance; honestly, I am not exactly sure what they were trying to accomplish. Boyle juices up the visuals with his characteristic razzmatazz, but it remains just that--energy, not energy in service of a story or even acting. The cast seems lost, especially Hunter, whose performance is so adrift as to be baffling. And then there are the many eccentricities splattered onto the film: some violent confrontations involving the angels, who are not exactly angelic--in fact, they end up staging their own ransom scheme; some mystical hokum in the climax; and a cutesy Claymation epilogue. Watching much of A Life Less Ordinary is like being trapped in indie hipster hell, stockpiling quirks in the name of cool. Instead, the film just gives quirky a bad name.

My best guess as to what the filmmakers wanted to accomplish is an atmosphere of warped womantic (yes, misspelling intended) whimsy, which comes through in only one scene: an extended musical number where Celine and Robert sing "Beyond the Sea" at a karaoke bar. After a verse or two, the couple are magically dolled up in snazzy outfits and hairdos, and engage in a spirited dance routine on the counter. The scene works not only because of its relative simplicity but also because it does not try too hard, just relying on the innate charm of the leads, allowing them to build a romantic rapport. Alas, not nearly enough is built, for this moment comes to an abrupt end.

I applaud any attempt to bring something fresh and unique to movie houses, but sometimes even cleverness can reach overkill. A Life Less Ordinary certainly delivers something "different," but by the time the film was over, I was clamoring for A Life More Ordinary.

In Brief

The Ice Storm poster The Ice Storm (R) ****
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Just when you thought subtlety was dying in movies comes Ang Lee's Oscar-worthy adaptation of Rick Moody's novel, a funny, moving slice of life in New Canaan, Connecticut, circa 1973, where married couples swap spouses at "key parties" and adolescents routinely dabble in sex, drugs, and alcohol. The focus lies on two neighboring families, the Hoods and the Carvers. Ben Hood (Kevin Kline), unhappily married to the sweet-natured Elena (Joan Allen), is having an affair with the sultry, bored Janey Carver (Sigourney Weaver). Ben and Elena's acerbic 14-year-old daughter, Wendy (Christina Ricci) constantly rebels against her youth, sexually experimenting with Janey and husband Jim's (Jamey Sheridan) eldest son, Mikey (Elijah Wood), while shamelessly teasing his younger brother, Sandy (Adam Hann-Byrd). Our narrator through these stormy proceedings is Wendy's older brother, prep school student Paul (Tobey Maguire), who is saddled with an uninteresting storyline involving a wealthy crush named Libbits Casey (Katie Holmes).

The Ice Storm is a film whose poignancy sneaks up onto you; based on the above synopsis, the film seems like a trashy soap, and for its often comic first half, it plays as such. During this time, however, Lee, scripter James Schamus, and the uniformly excellent ensemble quietly develop and shade the various characters and relationships in preparation for the more serious second half, when the titular meteorological event hits. But even during this more dramatically charged second hour, Lee's touch remains restrained and subtle (save for overtly metaphorical shots of ice cubes and ice cube trays), eschewing melodramatic confrontations, ever-so-subtly building to the moving finale, which is exquisite in its deceptive simplicity: in just one singular action, Lee deftly ties up the film's themes of family and belonging. Nothing could better sum up this beautifully nuanced, passionately performed, and terrifically realized piece of work.

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#114 October 23, 1997 by Michael Dequina


Gattaca poster Gattaca (PG-13) ***
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What if the world somehow found a way to make discrimination into a science? That is the provocative question presented by Gattaca, the intriguing and atmospheric debut of writer-director Andrew Niccol.

Those looking for a more effects-laden science fiction film will be disappointed by Gattaca, which centers more on drama than on pricey pyrotechnics. Set in "the not-too distant future," the film is set in a society where one's station in life is determined solely by genetics. Advances in genetic engineering have made natural breeding obsolete; to ensure a promising future for their children, prospective parents turn to geneticists to create their babies in a lab, where they take the most desirable genetic traits of the parents--and weed out their most undesirable--to create a "perfect" child. This genetic elite, called "Valid," are given all the golden opportunities in life--jobs, wealth--while the "In-valids," those created from natural breeding, make up the poor lower class.

One of these "faith children," as they are called, is Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke), a precocious young man who dreams of flying to the stars. Even though his genetic makeup makes it impossible for him to realize his dream, he does so anyway--by dealing with a black market DNA broker (Tony Shalhoub), who arranges Vincent to swap places with Jerome Morrow (played with scene-stealing gusto by Jude Law), a valid whose genes are of no use after being paralyzed from the waist down. As Jerome, Vincent builds a successful career at the aeronautics corporation Gattaca and is all set to fly on a mission to Titan, one of Saturn's moons. But after the director of Gattaca is murdered, and an In-valid eyelash is found in the ensuing investigation, it seems like only a matter of time before "Jerome" is exposed. Much of this material harkens back to Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, but I must give credit to Niccol, who paints a vivid, funny, yet disturbing portrait of this future society. The best moments come from the little details in the script. For example, when Vincent is born, the doctors can immediately determine his lifespan and what illnesses he is likely to suffer from; In-valids are sometimes referred to by the slur "de-gene-erate"; and some rather curious dating rituals: when Vincent expresses interest in Valid but slightly imperfect colleague Irene (a strangely uninteresting Uma Thurman, in a thankless role), she offers him a strand of her hair for a DNA check and says, "Let me know if you're still interested." Niccol's fascinating vision also extends to the striking cinematography, production and costume design by Slawomir Idziak, Jan Roelfs, and Colleen Atwood, respectively. They obviously did not have a substantially large budget to work with, but they succeed in creating an otherworldly look through minimalism. Buildings are shiny and smooth; people dress up in nice suits; and color is all but absent--everything seems constantly bathed in some shade of grey or silver, perfectly conveying the sense of coldness and lack of passion that dominates this glacial society.

Niccol's attention to detail does not extend, however, to Gattaca's basic plot mechanics, which are rather contrived. The murder mystery plot turns out to be little more than a device to put Vincent in danger of being discovered and does not reach a satisfying conclusion on its own. A supposed plot twist involving one of the murder's investigators (Loren Dean) is predictable and uninspired, and a sibling rivalry subplot explored early in the film between Vincent and his genetically engineered younger brother is revisited later to very little effect; it just serves as an extraneous, redundant underscoring of the point that genetics are not everything. The one relationship that is supposed to lend some warmth to the proceedings, the romance between Vincent and Irene, fails to ignite; Hawke and Thurman may have generated sparks off camera, but very little, if any, of that rapport is displayed onscreen.

When I first saw the trailer for Gattaca, I and a few other people snickered at the terribly banal tagline "There is no gene for the human spirit." As cornball as it is, that simple statement quite effectively sums up the true nature of the film. For all of its big Hollywood sci-fi trappings, Gattaca is essentially an intimate human story, and an unexpectedly moving and inspiring one at that. By the time it is over, one may just find oneself with (somewhat) renewed faith in the human race.

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#113 October 17, 1997 by Michael Dequina


The Devil's Advocate poster The Devil's Advocate (R) ** 1/2 Al Pacino hand & footprint ceremony pix
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Heard any good lawyer jokes lately? Taylor Hackford's fantasy/morality tale The Devil's Advocate starts out as a decent one but soon falls prey to Hollywood excess and gimmickry.

Keanu Reeves plays Kevin Lomax, a hotshot Florida attorney who is not above anything to win a case, even (gasp) coming up with convincing defenses for clients he knows are guilty. This, of course, means he his headed for the big-time, and the golden opportunity comes when he is invited to join a lofty New York firm headed by the brash John Milton (Al Pacino).

As the poster's tagline goes, "The newest attorney at the world's most powerful law firm has never lost a case. But he's about to lose his soul." Known to every moviegoer going in, Milton is not only a bad guy, he is the bad guy--the Devil himself. But it takes a while for Kevin to realize this--and for director Hackford to explicitly suggest that he is. As such, The Devil's Advocate comes in at a bloated two-hour, twenty-plus-minute running time. However, the film's setup is much more interesting than the overblown payoff offered by Hackford and screenwriters Jonathan Lemkin and Tony Gilroy. Up until the climax, the obligatory visual effects are fairly subtle, convincingly conveying the story's fanciful elements while not undercutting its anchor in reality. But the Hollywood mentality of "more is more" takes hold in the final reel, and Hackford employs an extravagant and extremely extraneous array of effects for the final showdown. Similarly Hollywood are a couple of contrivances that cap the picture. The Devil's Advocate takes a pair of wild twists in its conclusion, the last of which is a definite crowd-pleaser, but it also makes no logical sense. I will not give it away, but it reeks of blatant audience pandering (and, perhaps, test screening tinkering), offering a quick fix of enjoyment while simultaneously going against just about everything that immediately preceded it.

Reeves-bashing has become so commonplace that it can be seen as a critic's easy way out, but, forgive me, I cannot resist here. One of Reeves's worst characteristics is his flat voice, and while punching it up with an accent would seem like a harmless way of giving it a jolt, for Reeves it is ruinous. His Southern drawl is horrendous, not to mention inconsistent, yet mercifully so--he is much easier to take when it disappears. Another common problem with Reeves is his inexpressiveness, which was perfect for the action hero in the original Speed but is a huge hindrance in something halfway-dramatic as this. When some sign of emotion is called for, his face appears to be under great strain, painfully contorting to shape an expression of some affect. Most of all, however, his natural blankness makes Kevin's spiritual change from mostly good to bad barely noticeable; the only difference I could make out between the "before" Kevin and the "after" Kevin is that the "after" Kevin smokes.

It comes as no shock, of course, that the lightweight Reeves can barely hold his own with Pacino, who deserves billing over Reeves for the sheer entertainment value of his performance if not his more illustrious career and box office track record. At first it is slightly disappointing to see Pacino retreat to the broad theatrics of most of his recent work after the beautiful subtleties of Donnie Brasco, but his shameless showboating is not only called for here (after all, the Devil cannot exactly be restrained), but a lot of fun. The sole pleasure of the overdone climax is the sight of Pacino throwing all caution to the wind and cutting completely loose: he not only gets to act angry, sad, happy, and all points in between, he also gets to do a song and dance. Pacino has a blast, and it is hard for you not to, either. His sparkling presence really holds the picture together.

More surprising, though, is Reeves's poor showing against up-and-comer Charlize Theron, who plays Kevin's wife Mary Ann. Theron has the largest dramatic burden to bear--throughout the course of the picture, she has to change from a naive, bleached-blond-and-permed bumpkin to a dark-haired, severely distressed woman driven to the brink of insanity--and she carries it with very little, if any, trouble. She has a critical emotional gravity that Reeves lacks during their more serious scenes, which belies her fairly limited experience in film (and acting, for that matter). It is amazing that over the course of only four films in the past two years--2 days in the Valley, That Thing You Do!, Trial and Error, and this--Theron has displayed a greater depth and range than vet Reeves has in his entire career.

Theron is great, Pacino is, too, and the film has a delicious, if improbable, hook, but in the end The Devil's Advocate is a fable with a fairly simpleminded moral--do the right, honorable thing. It is a lesson we have all been told before one way or another, and in a number of more satisfying cinematic ways.

Playing God poster Playing God (R) * 1/2
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Buena Vista's press synopsis for Playing God labels the film "an intense thriller," and never have publicity notes been more helpful: after watching this aimless oddity, I could not get a handle what exactly the film is, and, based on the mess onscreen, the filmmakers themselves did not seem to have a clue, either.

Playing God starts out like a thriller, with our hero, aimless junkie Eugene Sands (David Duchovny), performing some nifty impromptu surgery on a shooting victim in a seedy L.A. nightclub. That grisly scene is followed by a more straight dramatic one, when we are offered a glimpse into Eugene's troubled past: he was once a surgeon, but he was stripped of his medical license after doing some fatal work on a patient while under the influence of amphetamines. Things then shift into a more comedic gear with the entrance of counterfeiter Raymond Blossom (Timothy Hutton), who, impressed with Eugene's spontaneous and skillful show of surgical savvy, takes a reluctant Eugene under his wing as a highly-paid on-call doctor who illegally "fixes" his criminal associates after they get themselves into bloody mishaps. And whenever Eugene's surgical gigs take center stage, the film takes a more blackly comic route.

When thriller-like double-crosses by Eugene, Raymond's girlfriend Claire (Angelina Jolie), and an FBI agent (Michael Massee) come into the picture, it becomes quite clear that no one involved in Playing God, much less director Andy Wilson or writer Mark Haskell Smith, has a real grasp on what exactly the film is all about. Not only is the film's mood and flow of events all over the map, but without any focused direction, all of the players attack the material from wildly different angles. Duchovny maintains a Fox Mulder-type balance of deadpan sarcasm and seriousness throughout; the pouty Jolie is stiffly earnest; and Massee and especially Hutton seemed to have wandered in from the broad comedy next door. I suppose the original intent of Playing God was to be a neo-noir with a gloss of postmodern hipness, something hinted at by Eugene's coolly detached and "ironic," if pointless, voiceover narration. But any discernable intentions are lost in the swirl of clashing ideas and sensibilities.

"A game with no rules" reads the tagline for Playing God, which can best be described as "a film with no rules": a peculiar star vehicle for X-Files sensation Duchovny that meanders within the territory of comedy, drama, thriller, and just about anything under the cinematic sun with very little rhyme and no apparent reason at all.

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