Daily Archives: January 25, 2000

Reindeer Games

John Frankenheimer does an excellent job of directing an extremely dubious thriller script by Ehren Kruger, about an ex-con (Ben Affleck) forced by a group of gun smugglers (including Gary Sinise and Clarence Williams III) into helping in the heist of a roadside casino on Christmas Eve. What’s dubious about this is the contribution of the usual studio thinking: the plot has more twists than a rattlesnake, at least three twists too many if one is supposed to accept any of the characters as human. (As two who couldn’t possibly be, Charlize Theron and James Frain prove as malleable as they come.) I had a pretty good time with this until the end, when I felt so soiled by the filmmakers’ cynicism and the characters’ gratuitous viciousness that I wanted to take a bath. 105 min. (JR)… Read more »

Holy Smoke

From the Chicago Reader (January 25, 2000). — J.R.

HS

Holy-Smoke

Jane Campion still has a remarkable eye for framing and imagining, but on the sad evidence of this scrambled free-for-all (1999), written with her sister Anna Campion, she’s taken leave of about half her senses. The setup is promising: a young Australian woman (Kate Winslet) becomes smitten with an Indian guru, and her bourgeois family, after luring her back home with a lie that her father is dying, hires an American specialist (Harvey Keitel) to deprogram her in the outback. Naturally the two of them get involved, and naturally this becomes a monumental battle of wills and sexes. As in Campion’s The Piano there’s a lot of wildness qualifying as a kind of politically correct porn, decked out on this occasion with dazzling visual effects that begin with the title written in smoke. But all sorts of questions go unanswered, and there’s little of the density found in Campion’s early work; this is mainly smoke, not fire. R, 114 min. (JR)

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