I wandered into this movie almost literally by accident when Dogma was sold out at my local multiplex. Having had only a passing interest in possibly seeing this film when it came out on tape, I settled in for some benign entertainment. Except for the gigantic leap of believability that comprises the central plot point, one that you have to see the movie to really appreciate, it’s actually a mildly interesting little wastrel of a film with some genuinely worthwhile bits.
Denzel Washington’s stand-in had the easiest job in the world, as he is bedridden all but 2 minutes of the film. This is somewhat of a crime because he is (Queen Latifah not withstanding) the most dynamic character in the movie. Angelina Jolie does her best with a poorly drawn character, but the entire ensemble is so free of any burden of motivation that it’s really quite a shame. And her gigantic lips! I used to make fun of Lisa Rinna for her lips but Jolie looks like she is sucking a cuttlefish! It was quite distracting.
I was also hugely annoyed by a character who became evident that he is the intended target **watching the preview** and so the tension for the movie was totally blown. If it’s that guy, then the whole movie is a crashing bore because it was so obvious. If it’s not that guy, then the movie is totally stupid for introducing a demon ex machina to make us feel stupid for falling for the obvious guy. It’s a lose lose situation. So, it doesn’t matter what the ending is, so the only reason you would see this is for the interesting puzzle-piecing that the Good Guys go through.
I will tell you one thing: what this movie lacked in script polish it made up for in atmosphere. The vast abandoned wastelands of NYC are creepy and smoky and wet and scary. Yay art department and cinematographer! I have to say here that I see a zillion movies (such as this one, and Mimic, and others) where people are wandering alone through definitely scary, definitely cavernous, definitely unused sections of major cities such as New York. Would not the city be using these abandoned subway areas for something, since they are so overcrowded and real estate space is so expensive? I swear Jolie walked seven football fields worth of usable space in a crowded city – and not a homeless population or anything. Weird. Looked nice, though.
Denzel is very good at making us believe he is brilliant, but I have a hard time believing that a guy who is one seizure away from a vegetative state (he’s a quadriplegic in the film) has such keen and broad-reaching recall and analysis. He’s so brilliant that he is the ONLY tool that NYC’s finest have to solve a series of crimes which had been going unsolved and unnoticed despite the perp actually leaving clues ON PURPOSE to get himself caught. This is only one goofy aspect of the film. There are more. Watch with caution.
MPAA Rating R – grisly violent content & language.
Release date 11/5/99
Time in minutes 118
Director Phillip Noyce
Studio Universal Pictures