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Overall Rating

Awesome: 6.67%
Worth A Look48.89%
Average: 28.89%
Pretty Bad: 13.33%
Total Crap: 2.22%

4 reviews, 21 user ratings

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by Erik Childress

"Canít Anyone Make A Worthy Superman Film This Year?"
2 stars

When Paul Schrader set out to tell the troubled life and unsolved murder of Hoganís Heroesí Bob Crane in Auto Focus, he provided a subtext of a rising and inevitably eclipsing video culture within the confines of a traditional biopic. The events surrounding the apparent suicide of Supermanís George Reeves is forked with avenues at which to explore, not the least of which is the suspicion that TVís Man of Steel fell victim to an enemy other than himself. And still, director Allen Coulter and screenwriter Paul Bernbaum turn that mystery into the least interesting (yet most pronounced) angle in a film which recognizes neither its ironies nor the multiplicity of thematic range which could have made this a classic Hollywood tale.

On June 16, 1959, Reeves (Ben Affleck) was found dead in his bedroom, presumed to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Police were quick to rule the case as such, but Reevesí mother (Lois Smith) wasnít believing it. Private investigator Louis Simo (Adrien Brody) crosses paths with her and perhaps influenced by his estranged sonís dismay over Superman taking a bullet from a Nazi pistol, he decides to investigate further.

In flashbacks we see Reeves as a blip on the Hollywood map, showing up at restaurants to stargaze and even worm his way into the occasional press photo. One such night he charms Toni Mannix (Diane Lane), a woman his senior still beautiful enough to blow away whomever was hired to portray Rita Hayworth. The next morning he discovers the Mannix surname actually belongs to MGM studio boss, Eddie Mannix (Bob Hoskins), who shares such an open relationship that they can double with their own side action. Could the evolvement of this courtship been enough to spark murder? Was Reevesí fiancee, aspiring actress Leonore Lemmon (Robin Tunney) somehow responsible waiting 45 minutes to call the police? Or was it a fledgling career that led detectives to the right conclusion? The truth is the film gives us little reason to care any which way.

Telling parallel stories as the framework for a real life murder mystery should result in something mildly compelling at worst. Only the filmmakers canít see the evidence right in front of them which would make it so. Maybe all the subtext was lost with the original title Ė Truth, Justice and the American Way. Break it down and it should have been easy as apple pie to highlight why a lack of focus on one particular story was unnecessary.

(TRUTH) What happened that June evening? Through a series of Simo-induced Rashomon-ish flashbacks, thereís various speculation on whom other than Reeves may have been responsible for the bullet holes in the floor and the blood splattered all over the wall. As an actual mystery, however, its hardly worthy of anyone who has read a Nancy Drew novel. So weíre left with this arid gumshoe concoction whose sole motivation (aside from the obvious publicity) is to prove to his son that his hero was murdered. Would that really provide comfort to a child though? After all, heís supposed to be faster than whatís coming out the end of that barrel. And once again, we have another element of truth vs. fiction leapt over in a single bound at a promotional stunt show where Reeves (in a real-life incident) was approached by a child with a loaded pistol asking to shoot him. Itís a compelling moment that speaks specifically to this aspect of the story, but Coulter cuts away from it (as the end of a Simo dream) before reaching its denoument.

(JUSTICE) Supermanís brand was swift (and on TV Ė less fatal.) But life around the magic factory that created him was crueler and less satisfactory as the investigating officers rule it a suicide before ever leaving the bedroom. One cop (Dash Mihok) eventually expresses doubt, but its as much of an afterthought as Simoís efforts. Simo, in essence, should be Reevesí Superman Ė the one man out there trying to preserve not just his memory but one of the foundations we still believe our country was founded under. The American Way, in reality, does revolve around the almighty dollar and Simoís ethical crusader runs on the same fuel that studio execs like Mr. Mannix try to hoard and protect. Bernbaumís script doesnít have the fuel or even the spark to connect the two justice seekers in their own parallel worlds where legends exist and facts donít.

By contrast, the backstory involving Reeves becomes more interesting Ė even if presented alone would be little more than just another bland biopic. The present day material with Brody is so lackluster though that Coulter & Bernbaum would have been better off just concentrating on Reevesí life. Maybe then his alter-egoís mantra could have come into better focus, even without the glasses. Affleck does some nice work as Reeves (and Coulter pulls off one great iconic image of Reeves in the suit walking off the set) so itís sad to watch the motivating factors for his later years shortchanged by the obsession over who pulled the trigger. The film plays up Reevesí role in From Here To Eternity as being a test-screening disaster when preview audiences vocally recognized the actorís signature role and, as a result, had most of his scenes cut. (An urban legend that the filmís director, Fred Zinnemann, denied handedly.) Here is a man who during WWII enlisted in the air force, then ended up making propaganda training films for them. A man who, unwittedly, became a role model to millions of kids despite his non-Kal-El vices of smoking, drinking and adultery. A man who wanted to be Clark Gable and ended up barely being George Reeves. It doesnít take x-ray vision to see the movie in all of this, but Hollywoodland more closely resembles a poorly made tabloid instead of a film with just an identity problem.

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originally posted: 09/09/06 08:19:56
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User Comments

9/22/17 morris campbell good imho 4 stars
9/16/12 cindy madson okay 4 stars
5/13/09 art I TAKE IT BACK IT WAS"DULLSVILLE"! 1 stars
9/24/07 Tricia Great movei. Affleck and Brody are great. Affleck is a great actor and it shines in this. 4 stars
9/15/07 AnnieG Average film that had the potential to be much better. 3 stars
8/26/07 Carlos Guzman Normally Affleck reeks, but there shoulda been more of him in this,i agree 3 stars
3/05/07 Monday Morning Very good noir - would have benefitted from a little snappier pacing, though. 4 stars
2/16/07 action movie fan T>V>S SUPERMAN KILLS SELF!!! 1959 ny post headline inspires this decent detective story 3 stars
12/01/06 MP Bartley Two stories here, but they frustratingly focused on the wrong one. Terrific acting though. 3 stars
11/12/06 J One of the best pictures I've seen this year. 5 stars
9/23/06 Mohobbit A very good film, gives you 3 possible solutions and in the end leaves it up to you. 4 stars
9/23/06 Agent Sands Rather than taking full dramatic license like The Black Dahlia, it's all theory. 4 stars
9/21/06 jada it was ok, felt it came close to be a really good movie but just missed 3 stars
9/18/06 Barbara Miller I was devasted by Reeves "suicide" The film does little to convince me otherwise. 3 stars
9/14/06 RT Simply outstanding. Verges on classic NOIR. Great script/outstanding cinematography! 5 stars
9/11/06 ahnold Not bad, but not great either. Possibly worth look 4 stars
9/11/06 Bobbi see this only if you grew up with the George Reeves series 3 stars
9/11/06 R.W.Welch Was Superman murdered? Probably not, but what's more fun than a conspiracy theory? 4 stars
9/09/06 jcjs wow, fun 5 stars
9/09/06 Pn. Let the Affleck Supporting Oscar buzz commence... 4 stars
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  08-Sep-2006 (R)
  DVD: 06-Feb-2007



Directed by
  Allen Coulter

Written by
  Paul Bernbaum

  Adrien Brody
  Diane Lane
  Ben Affleck
  Bob Hoskins
  Molly Parker
  Lois Smith

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