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Learning Curve, The
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by Scott Weinberg

"A slick little surprise; unoriginal yet entirely entertaining."
4 stars

One of the cooler things about being required to watch lots of movies "sight unseen" is that occasionally something unexpectedly entertaining pops up. Sure, you may have to wade through 15 discs of junk before it happens, but if youíre a hardcore movie addict - thatís a small price to pay.

As I sat watching The Learning Curve, I was reminded of another little-known movie that hit DVD earlier this year entitled Risk (starring Bryan Brown; check it out). Both movies feature lesser-known yet talented actors, are directed in a stylish and kinetic style, and neither film lets the permeating lack of story originality get in the way of delivering a pretty good time. Not much about The Learning Curve is all that new, but first-time writer-director Eric Schwab still manages to keep things moving briskly and offers a flick that's generally quite entertaining despite a handful of minor missteps.

Paul and Georgia are two young lovers who both have their own private crosses to bear: she has a creepy and abusive father, and he has a dead-end job working as a minimum-wage hospital janitor. Anxious to break out of their collective rut, the naÔve duo hatch a plan: Georgia will pretend to seduce a potentially wealthy mark, while Paul swoops in at the last minute when Georgia cries rape. Their underhanded scheme works fairly well, but the payoffs arenít worth the risk, so the couple attempts to broaden their horizons to include insurance fraud.

Since it's clear that these two greedy kids are in over their heads, it should come as no surprise when their first fake car accident victim turns out to be a ruthless corporate pirate, a merciless thug named Marshal who behaves more like a feared Mafia don than the CEO of a respectable corporation. Marshal initially scares the aspiring felons to within an inch of their lives (in one of the filmí's best scenes), and then takes a reluctant liking to the pair. Realizing they have no real prospects, Marshal hires Paul and Georgia to handle all sorts of dirty work. Georgia proves successful at flaunting her feminine wiles in order to hook a mark, and Paul takes to a life of white-collar crime like a duck to water.

Things, logically, get way out of hand - but not before Marshal and his newfound crew are neck-deep in various scams involving corrupt politicians, an aspiring rock singer, and a whole bunch of rather irritated cops. To the film's credit, there are a handful of welcome surprises dropped in amid some of the more familiar trappings, and the three leads are surprisingly solid. Vincent Ventresca (Romy and Michelleís High School Reunion) is devilishly oily and a whole lotta fun as the devious Marshal, and Carmine Giovinazzo (Black Hawk Down) elevates the main character by bringing some realistic shades of dedication and desperation. The jewel of the cast is Monet Mazur, a lovely young actress last seen (briefly) in 40 Days & 40 Nights. Her portrayal of Georgia may seem a bit one-note at first, but once the movie kicks in a bit and her character is a bit more fleshed out, Mazur really shines.

The Learning Curve isn't likely to win any awards or cause any stampedes at the video store. It received a miniscule limited theatrical release in late 2001, but this is one that's surely worth a look on video, and if it ever pops up on cable one boring night, you should pop a tape in the VCR or just sit back and give it a shot.

This one may not be as flashy as your big-budget multiplex-dwellers, but isnít it satisfying to know that there are good little flicks like this one that youíve never even heard of yet?

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originally posted: 05/02/04 14:34:09
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User Comments

3/22/02 Cool Dude Nice debut - director is a shooter 4 stars
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  19-Oct-2001 (R)



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