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Black Rainbow
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by Jack Sommersby

"A Wet Noodle of a Thriller"
2 stars

The ingredients are certainly here for a suspenseful good time, yet the direction is piss-poor and the writing doesn't provide nearly enough underpinnings to glide over this.

A consistently-interesting Roseanna Arquette gives a very fine performance as Martha Travis, a clairvoyant who travels cross-country to churches purporting to be a go-between with the congregation and their deceased loved ones. She seems to truly possess this unique gift, which she and her drunken father/manager Walter (Jason Robards) egregiously exploit for monetary gain. But one night something quite surprising happens: Martha begins getting visions of the non-dead before their untimely demises, and her warnings that these people are in immediate danger fails to convince their family. As it happens, one man in particular is shot to death, and it's revealed he was a nuclear-plant employee who was about to blow the whistle on his employer for safety violations; then the dastardly employer sends a hit man to terminate Martha on the off-chance that she knows more than she does. All of this should add up to a nerve-jangling time at the movies in the vein of David Cronenberg's The Dead Zone and Sam Raimi's The Gift, but the writer/director, Mike Hodges, doesn't seem to know what kind of movie he's making. Sometimes it's a character-driven drama of a woman who's been used by her father and has had the soul burned right out of her over the years; and sometimes it's a thriller when concentrating on the hit man character. But the character scenes suffer from dumb dialogue and rote repetition; and the thriller scenes are stodgily engineered by a moviemaker (the same one responsible for the well-regarded Get Carter and not-bad Flash Gordon) who displays absolutely no penchant for conjuring up and sustaining pace and tension. What's worse, British cinematographer Gerry Fisher's considerable talent is wasted, and the screenplay affords the untalented Tom Hulce (who's been wretched in his each and every screen appearance) the role of an investigative reporter who's initially doubtful but soon convinced of Martha's true gift. There's not a single good scene to Black Rainbow's credit, and it's overlong by at least fifteen minutes and has all the assured flow of cold molasses. Overall, it's the kind of cruddy cinematic folly that boasts a not-bad story premise that simply isn't developed well in dramatic and narrative terms. Luckily, there's the game Arquette giving the proceedings a lot more emotional truth than the material even remotely deserves. While she doesn't come close to approaching her stellar performances in the extraordinary The Executioner's Song and the perceptive Baby It's You, considering the truly lackadaisical stuff she had to work with here, the mere fact that she manages to stand out amidst all the plot holes and mumbo-jumbo is quite a feat that shouldn't be ignored, though it's not nearly enough to recommend this poorly-plotted, dead-on-arrival non-thriller that has all the entertainment value of a tax audit.

More a junkyard of haphazardly thrown-together parts than a sound motion picture experience.

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originally posted: 04/01/07 04:38:58
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  02-Apr-1990 (R)



Directed by
  Mike Hodges

Written by
  Mike Hodges

  Rosanna Arquette
  Jason Robards
  Tom Hulce
  Mark Joy
  Ron Rosenthal

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