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Overall Rating
3.35

Awesome31.37%
Worth A Look: 29.41%
Average: 3.92%
Pretty Bad: 13.73%
Total Crap: 21.57%

4 reviews, 27 user ratings


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Singing Detective, The (2003)
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by Chris Parry

"The movie Road to Perdition could have been. If Road to Perdition sucked."
1 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2003 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: The film with the biggest name cast in Sundance this year also boasts the distinction of being the biggest pile of crap seen to date. A reworking of the old British TV series, The Singing Detective, this flick starts off great in the first twenty minutes and then heads steadily into a hole so deep that people were, literally, climbing the rails to get out of the thing. I’m not kidding you here, by the end of this initially packed film there was nobody sitting in the two rows in front of me, nobody behind me and nobody on either side of me. They didn’t walk out, they bolted. People actually climbed over a railing to get out of this screening faster. Seriously. Of maybe 100 people that started watching this screening of The Singing Detective, at least 15 left in the first hour. And these weren’t folks with something better to do, they’re film critics. They’re paid to watch the whole flick. When a critic walks out early he or she is saying, “I think this movie is so bad, I refuse to even waste my time reviewing it.” I know the feeling well, because I stayed.

And those people who walked are right, The Singing Detective is an unmitigated train-wreck. I’ll bet a week’s wages it never sees a theatrical release, which would certainly be a first for a flick boasting a cast that includes the likes of Mel Gibson, Katie Holmes, Robert Downey Jr, Alfre Woodard, Adrien Brody, Jeremy Northam and Robin Wright Penn. This is a dream cast! You could have these people remake Ski School and it’d make ten million in the opening weekend.

So how does a director let this caliber of cast make such a terrible movie? I honestly can’t explain it. Granted, director Keith Gordon is known for his slow-moving, pretentious, sometimes baffling works, and certainly The Singing Detective qualifies on all those counts. But it also seems to suffer from a certain directorial slackness. Perhaps the festival cut isn’t the final cut, and if that’s the case then all I can say is 'good', because what I witnessed in the Eccles press screening room this day was cut just terribly. Shots cross the axis (the first no-no you learn in Directing 101), some cuts throw continuity right out the window, the story arc is a long slow downward line and characters drift in and out like they’re unimportant.

I guess I should hit you up with some storyline, just to show I paid some attention. Robert Downey Jr plays Dan Dark, a writer of pulp detective novels who has been struck down with psoriasis, a skin condition that causes the sufferer to breakout in rashes and lesions. In most cases it’s localized, but Dan Dark is covered from head to toe in scabs, rashes and bleeding sores – something that proves all the harder to look at when you’re hit with countless close-ups, lingering stares and scenes that take place in the same hospital bed for the entire length of the flick.

Dark isn’t doing well physically, but emotionally he’s also hit the wall, conjuring up hallucinations, flashbacks and general paranoia. Put simply, Downey’s character is hard to look at, hard to listen to, hard to empathize with and grates more and more on you the longer the film goes.

But don’t put that down to Downey, he’s fantastic considering what he’s been given to work with. While the script has moments of sheer out and out comedy, it also has a good hour of depressing, unenlightened dialogue that goes no further than petty insults, yelling and complaining. While Holmes is on screen long enough only to give Downey an accidental hand-job (“I have to lift your penis to properly lube around it… oops!”) and Robin Wright Penn gives her all for her own role as Dan Dark’s mostly absent wife and flashback whore, everyone seems to be on cruise control. Mel Gibson, who ages himself and slaps on a bald cap to play Dark’s psychotherapist, serves only to distract you from the story at hand. That’s not a psychotherapist, even though he’s playing his part well enough, it’s Mel Gibson with a bald head. Who can ignore that?

To top it all off, this flick was at least twenty minutes too long. It didn’t seem to know when to end, or even how it would. The production design was awful (some sets look like they were used on the original Twilight Zone episodes), the musical numbers (yes, there’s musical numbers) give you the feeling that you’re watching an extended Elton John video… I really can’t say enough about how bad this film ended up being. And it wasn't because I had an attitude going in, despite the fact that the series this was based on is as perfect as TV can get, I went to see the film because I'd hoped it would be entertaining. And it totally wasn't. I could have clawed my own eyes out.

Mel Gibson’s Icon Productions is rapidly picking up a reputation for movies that suck (Million Dollar Hotel, What Women Want) and this takes that reputation to a whole new level. That it won awards at the festival is neither here nor there, Sundance award-winners have a long past of being ignored by audience's on their release, and if this flick does numbers anything close to The Master of Disguise or Kangaroo Jack, I'll eat my shorts. Heck, I'll even eat Dan Dark's.

One day you’ll see this film available on video. When that day comes, wash your hair instead.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=6822&reviewer=1
originally posted: 01/18/03 20:43:19
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Chicago Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/28/11 millersxing Freddy Krueger's back and he's got a new nightmare! 1 stars
8/04/06 Agent Sands Good cast, nice soundtrack. 'S about it. Not very tightly done. 3 stars
5/08/04 tatum Really treats the audience like drones, "you won't get this, so just shut up" 1 stars
5/03/04 carlos eduardo muñoz buena 5 stars
4/14/04 paul too good to put in words 5 stars
12/18/03 maria gonzalez I love it. Robert Downey is a great actor 5 stars
12/07/03 Lyric Robert Downey Jr is the MAN!!!!!! 5 stars
11/30/03 jmsynth Only 12 people in cinema. When I left after 30 mins, 3 remained. Worst Film Ever! 1 stars
11/26/03 costars Fun, Funny, Beautiful, Imaginative & Fascinating 5 stars
11/22/03 john splendid, captivating, Downey and Penn lovely etc. 5 stars
11/18/03 he a great film 5 stars
11/15/03 Karol Sucks is too good a word for this crap!! 1 stars
11/11/03 Cameron Slick You have to see it to believe it, and even that isn’t a guarantee. 3 stars
11/09/03 T Leonard White Extraordinary performance by Downey 5 stars
10/28/03 Stephanie The absolute WORST movie I have ever seen in my entire life. 1 stars
10/13/03 Patty K Challenging, weird, and great. Downey is amazing. 5 stars
10/10/03 fay ubertin loved this movie dementia without reserve. Robert Downey Jr. is a comic genius 4 stars
9/10/03 Tory Great acting 5 stars
6/23/03 Smiley Hit or Miss. It was a hit with me. Manifold sub plots and themes to challenge the viewer. 5 stars
6/19/03 Kino My favorite film from Sundance 2003 5 stars
6/06/03 Ed Funny, odd, moving, terrific 5 stars
5/22/03 jason smyth Awesome. thankfully not the usual hollywood crap 5 stars
2/20/03 Cray Z A Fever Dream! 5 stars
2/12/03 SusanS Fascinating and original. Slow spots. 4 stars
2/04/03 ahmad goooog 5 stars
1/25/03 Buddha The hell he is. What laborious crap. 2 stars
1/25/03 Gino Lambretta No, no, no, this reviewer is incorrect 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  24-Oct-2003 (R)
  DVD: 23-Mar-2004

UK
  N/A

Australia
  08-Jul-2004 (M)




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