Daily Archives: October 1, 1994

The Genius

A ramshackle underground SF satire (1993) set and shot in the self-absorbed art world of lower Manhattan, written, produced, and directed by Joe Gibbons, who also plays one of the lead parts; Emily Breer was the editor and took charge of the postproduction, yet the film lacks the freshness and weirdness of her own work. Gibbons plays a mad scientist who’s developed a technique for transferring personalities from one person’s body to another; he becomes obsessed with an outlaw artist (played by performance artist Karen Finley) who destroys paintings in various galleries as a form of anarchist, anticapitalist protest. The main limitation here, apart from some dopey dialogue and an exposition dominated by mechanical crosscutting, is a substitution of performance art for acting, which leads to a certain crudeness in propping up the fiction. Among the other performers are Tony Conrad, Tony Oursler, and Adolfas Mekas, who seemed to be having more fun than I was. (JR)… Read more »

The Client

Another adaptation of a John Grisham best-seller (after The Firm and The Pelican Brief), this one involving an 11-year-old boy who unwittingly learns from a Mafia lawyer the whereabouts of a missing U.S. senator’s body just before the lawyer shoots himself, which sends both the crime syndicate and the federal government after the boy. Figuring in are the boy’s younger brother (who’s traumatized by the suicide), their single mother (Mary-Louise Parker), a lawyer (Susan Sarandon) who seeks to protect the boy, and a federal prosecutor (Tommy Lee Jones, of course). Joel Schumacher directed from a script by Akiva Goldsman and Robert Getchell. This isn’t much of a thrillerthe villains are all straight from central casting, and most of the suspense sequences aren’t very suspensefulbut a certain amount of goodwill is stirred up by the gradual bonding between the working-class boy and the lawyer, despite some directorial overemphasis; Sarandon is good as always, though an underscripted Jones just walks through his part. With Anthony LaPaglia, Anthony Edwards, Ossie Davis, and Brad Renfro. (JR)… Read more »

Speed

Enjoyable thriller hokum in the form of a theme-park ride (1994) from first-time director Jan De Bont (a Dutch-born cinematographer best known for his work with Paul Verhoeven), with a script from Graham Yost, also making his feature debut. All the action derives from the untiring efforts of a standard-issue mad bomber (Dennis Hopper), who demands enormous ransoms in order to avert planned disasters but, like John Malkovich in In the Line of Fire, seems principally motivated by Hollywood script conferences. His main scheme, taking up most of the movie’s running time, involves planting a bomb under an LA bus, which will blow up if the bus is driven any slower than 50 miles an hour. Keanu Reeves is the courageous cop who comes to the rescue, assisted by gutsy civilian Sandra Bullock. The deft arabesques of cinematographer Andrzej Bartkowiak juice up the suspense, and if you’re not too put off by the sheer ridiculousness of the story you won’t be bored. With Joe Morton and Jeff Daniels. (JR)… Read more »

White

This 1993 black comedy is the least effective work in Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colors trilogy. A Polish hairdresser (Zbigniew Zamachowski) living in Paris, whose French wife (Julie Delpy) divorces him because he’s impotent, is stripped of his job, his money, his passport, and his dignity, and winds up returning to Poland incognito inside a trunk. But taking advantage of the new everything-for-sale economy, he becomes wealthy and hatches a perverse revenge plot. As good as Zamachowski is in the part, his character, like the others in this mordant Polish allegory about equality, seems tailored to fit the message. Moreover, the message, which appears to be that capitalism gives you a hard-on (and that working in a foreign culture, even Paris, leads to impotence), is rather glibly and cursorily spelled out by the slender plot; if we accept it at all, we have to do so mainly on faith. With Janusz Gajos and Jerzy Stuhr, who turn in very able performances. In French and Polish with subtitles. 92 min. (JR)… Read more »