Daily Archives: August 12, 1997

Money Talks

This ain’t no buddy movie, claims the publicity, but that’s precisely what this crude, antihumanistic action comedy is. Like an updated Bob Hope romp, it offers plenty of cowardice and wild-eyed grimacing from star Chris Tucker, but there’s also a lot of blood and corpses to show how much hipper we are than those 1940s audiences of Hope’s. In line with its smirking sense of superiority, pornographic glimpses of guns, cars, and diamonds are at best equated with but generally valued over intimations of bare ass. Tucker plays a Los Angeles con artist who, falsely accused of leading a prison break, turns to a stuffy TV reporter (Charlie Sheen) to clear his name. A couple of OK action set pieces and goofy conceits (such as Tucker posing as the son of Vic Damone and Diahann Carroll) can’t make up for the overall cynicism and stupidity, unless cynicism and stupidity are what you’re looking for. Brett Ratner directed from a script by Joel Cohen (no connection to the director of Fargo) and Alec Sokolow; with Heather Locklear, Elise Neal, and Paul Sorvino. (JR)… Read more »

The Last Time I Committed Suicide

Based on a letter from Neal Cassady to Jack Kerouac describing events in Denver in the mid-40s, this independent effort (1996) by writer-director Stephen Kay offers a moderate amount of beefcake (basically Thomas Jane as Neal), some overacting (by Keanu Reeves as a pool hall compadre), a lot of arty lighting, samplings of jazz records made during the 40s and 50s (to provide atmosphere rather than to be listened to, by us or the characters), and at least three dolled-up heroines (Claire Forlani, Marg Helgenberger, Gretchen Mol) who tend to swoon whenever Neal’s around. The period detail is heaped on self-consciously but not really felt, though the beat mystique as experienced through Cassady’s all-American euphoria actually gets evoked in spots, along with the sadness that usually goes with it. (JR)… Read more »

In The Company Of Men

Don’t tell anyone, but this blistering piece of provocation by independent writer-director Neil LaBute, his first feature (1997), has a lot to do with capitalism and how it alters our notions of masculinity and romance; in short, it’s about how business affects the way we live and think and feel. Two 30ish male execs (Aaron Eckhart, Matt Malloy) sent to their company’s branch office for six weeks decide to date, flatter, and then humiliate a woman they pick at random. (They settle on a deaf typist, deftly played by Stacy Edwards.) It doesn’t sound like a believable story without the context provided by LaBute’s concentrated minimalist style and the strong performances, but all the nuances here count, and most of them add up to something pretty potent as well as scary. Check this one out. 93 min. (JR)… Read more »

Career Girls

An adroitly acted though still quite minor Mike Leigh film, about two old college chums (Katrin Cartlidge and Lynda Steadman) meeting up in London after six years. As frequently happens in Leigh’s stories, each central character is accorded at least one hyperbolic personal trait: Cartlidge (who played very different roles in Naked and Breaking the Waves) moves in jerky, demonstrative gestures; Steadman’s character has a skin disease that renders her both tense and fragile; and Mark Benton, playing a fellow student who shows some interest in Steadman, stutters relentlessly. What’s most remarkable about the two lead actresses (assisted by makeup designer Christine Blundell) is how much they change over six years in physical appearance as well as modified personal style, a point underlined by periodic flashbacks. Though the film’s theme never comes into sharp focus, there’s still something agreeable about Leigh’s low-key approach, compared to the grandstanding of Naked and Secrets & Lies. (JR)

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