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1 review, 4 user ratings

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by Jack Sommersby

"Michael Crichton's Nadir"
1 stars

The theatrical trailer promises a far more tantalizing time than you actually wind up getting.

Monumentally moronic, it's hard to believe a rotten thriller like Looker could possibly come f'om someone with writer/director Michael Crichton's background. A former Harvard Medical School student and best-selling author, he's been responsible for the witty science-fiction tale Westworld, the suspenseful medical thriller Coma, the elegant adventure The Great Train Robbery -- all flawed entertainments, mind you, but entertainments nevertheless. Looker, however, is both neurasthenic and noxious -- an impersonally crafted piece of hodgepodge with such an IQ-insulting degree of nonsensicalness that you suspect Crichton not only dreamed the story up while riding the ultimate codeine high but was equally high during the filming of it. Someone's murdering gorgeous commercial actresses who've had plastic surgery done by the best in the business, Beverly Hills top doc Larry Roberts (Albert Finney); and right from the outset Crichton fumbles the ball in first showing us one of the actresses mechanically reciting her road-kill commercial dialogue on television and then cutting to the doctor's office where she sounds just as mechanical during her consultation explaining she wants to-the-millimeter adjustments done. Is he saying all women who do this kind of work are personality-defunct dummies? Well, look who's talking being that he's given his hero all the brain cells of a turnip, and that Finney, one of our greatest living actors, goes through the motions with the bored demeanor of a small-town school-crossing guard -- you can sense more internal tension in a comatose drunk and spot more alacrity in a snail. After this actress is murdered in her high-rise apartment, falling to her death from the balcony after being repeatedly zapped with some kind of flash-blinding device, the police question Roberts and inform him that another patient of his was recently killed in a car crash. Were they suicidal, the detective asks? Not likely, responds Roberts. But when the third of his four patients who had to-the-millimeter work done falls to her death from her balcony, Roberts becomes protective of the last of the lot, Cindy (luminous Susan Dey), taking her to a dinner party and accompanying her the next morning to the shooting of her commercial at the beach. Of course, police-protective custody would seem more in order, but for the movie to go on past the thirty-minute mark Crichton has Roberts behave as if he'd performed a frontal lobotomy on himself in his spare time. (I doubt the American Medical Association will come out in endorsement of Looker.)

Tipping its hand far too early, the movie reveals the villain to be one John Reston (James Coburn, looking embarrassed), the CEO of the six-billion-dollar conglomerate Reston Institute whose Digital Matrix division is a facility specializing in research and testing of, yep, television commercials. Through cutting-edge technology they're able to make commercials totally by computer: though the actresses have had exact corrective surgery done, when they actually move during a commercial their "perfect" rating goes down; so the actresses are being slain so they can be replaced with computer simulations. But why murder them? This is the world of television commercials, not the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Would the actresses care if their likenesses were being used as long as they were getting paid? Wouldn't their deceased selves have friends and family who'd be a little bit suspicious seeing them in commercials while they're in the grave, and wouldn't they be entitled to residuals? And since Reston's assistant earlier explained to Roberts that audience attention during a commercial needs to be more on the product than the actress, wouldnt her "perfection" draw even more attention away? (Crichton's forever sabotaging his own paper-thin concoction.) Subliminal hypnosis is also being employed to put the commercial's viewers into a hypnotic trance, so why the need for "perfect" actresses? Under hypnosis the viewer couldn't be equally enticed by a vegetarian advertising T-bone steaks? When Crichton isn't fouling his nest with such contradictions he spends an inordinate amount of time with the silly top-secret flash gun that looks like some kind of futuristic hair dryer. (It's filmdom's first Vidal Sassoon ray gun!) And even this isn't sensibly employed. Those who are "flashed" lose all sense of time for several minutes, so why aren't the victims done away with during this time rather than after they come out of it? So we can see what the gun does, of course. There's a confusingly abrupt cut to an abysmally staged car chase that Crichton has seen fit to start without us. Theres a lengthy, didactic lecture by Reston on Americans spending too many hours of their lives watching the boob tube. (This coming from the same guy whose television series E.R. ran for fifteen years?) There are some compensations, however. Paul Lohmann's lighting occasionally offers up eye-pleasing high-gloss sheen. Barry DeVorzon's limited but hard-driving synthesizer score has verve. And, best of all, there's Dey's superb, intuitive performance. A former television actress who impressed in her first starring film role in 1977's observant First Love, she has both the looks and talent to be an A-list star. Everything else about Looker is mind-numbingly inane.

Check out Crichton's follow-up, the underappreciated "Runaway."

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originally posted: 11/04/13 02:49:18
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User Comments

2/25/18 SerpentX Everything that sucked about that era, wrapped up into one shitty movie 1 stars
1/28/14 YFRbeUJSgQbkdCDHbGB greg.txt;1;3 4 stars
11/07/13 JP Ward Lacks the bite it thinks it has. 1 stars
11/07/13 Louis Blyskal Great Movie 4 stars
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