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Average: 12.5%
Pretty Bad75%
Total Crap: 12.5%

1 review, 2 user ratings

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Private Property
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by Erik Childress

"The Energizer Bunny Of Movies"
2 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2003 CINEVEGAS FILM FESTIVAL: Will anything fresh ever come again of the hostage/prey thriller? You get trapped, you fight back, Hostage/Terrorist-Terrorist/Hostage, A Study In Duality. I suppose the addition of a Cyndi Lauper musical score is an original slant, but so is doing the subgenre with a cast full of donkeys and kangaroos. Doesn’t add much except a bit of colorful casting. Filmmaker Elizabeth Dimon has set her scene on a practically deserted island and thrown in more “huh? What?” Macguffins than Hitchcock fooling with the clerks at McDonalds. There’s also more subgenres at work here all uneasily meshing into a mess of a film that will have even the most esoteric of audiences scratching their heads.

Quoting Bette Davis’ infamous line from All About Eve was an interesting way for director Elizabeth Dimon to introduce her film to the CineVegas crowd. Bumpy ride or not, you would need a seatbelt, lapbar, harness and handcuffs to keep from getting restless during a film that could get kicked out of the park for genre-jumping on a moment’s notice. I like to be kept on my toes as much as anyone, but Private Property introduces and re-introduces plot threads and keeps us in the dark well past caring what the revelations are.

On that nearly deserted island, two men in tuxedos are desperately getting a tiny motorboat to shore. One is covered in blood, thanks possibly to the exotic animal posing as their meal ticket that they will lose and subsequently search for. Seemingly the island’s only inhabitant, Tess (Mirjana Jokovic), reluctantly takes them in so they can rest and heal their wounds. Sam (David Thornton) is the level-headed bleeding Butthead of the pair while Nigel (Tomas Arana) Beavis’s around with a knife and an eye for the isolated woman. Tess wants nothing more than to get these two out of her place, protecting portions of her belongings and mysteriously heading off to talk to someone in the cellar. Is she crazy or are they not alone?

The answers are hidden from us and something intriguing appears to be afoot, except a dragging first hour of pseudo-psychological mind games is way too bland to achieve any kind of suspense or sympathy for the characters involved, especially with its over-reliance on musical cues. Nigel walks around like Switchblade Sam from Dennis the Menace while the actual Sam & Tess momentarily engage in rapid, well medium-fire banter like Nick & Nora Charles without the Dashiell Hammett flair for dialogue. (“People that get carried away…get carried away.”) “The monotony became unbearable,” was certainly the most telling.

But then an interesting switch in tone occurred. Concrete wall headsmacking to be sure, but the film briefly shifts into whackjob comedy mode. The way it’s introduced, with one of the secrets finally revealed, is funny and sharply timed and if Private Property maintained this aura of eccentricity, it might just come together. But the wheel of genres keep spinning as we get flashbacks, murders, affairs, lost love and a punishment worthy of Creepshow. It’s damn near impossible to maintain a psychological dramatic screwball mystery love story as it is. Now try breaking it up with a montage to a Cyndi Lauper song (who is also married to Thornton). Pretty songs, yes. But the last thing this film needed was a doe-eyed piece of reminiscence straight out of the WB lineup.

Private Property begins like Wait Until Dark, borrows elements from Pulp Fiction and The Goonies, sidetracks into Salo (as comedy) and then I Spit On Your Grave, but much sunnier. Scattered moments work in the film, but for every one of those there’s a grain of sand on Tess’ beachfront. By the time you get to the funniest line of the film – “This time you’ve gone too far, Contessa!” – we realize that David Mamet was right, “we laugh because it's funny - and we laugh because it's true."

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originally posted: 06/25/03 07:16:46
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 CineVegas Film Festival. For more in the 2003 CineVegas Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

7/08/08 Pookie Adams Horrible 1 stars
3/26/04 Patick A. Pilkington I was one of the Coast Guardsmen in this movie I haven't seen this movie. Please help. 3 stars
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