by Greg Muskewitz
A surprise of sorts, though it becomes less surprising or awe-inspiring as time passes from its close.The revelations themselves do not lessen in impact, although most of the secretive suspense is dispensed midway through, leveling for some old fashioned nail-biting and pulse-pumping tension. My own initial surprise afterwards was that I was able to like a film by Mike Figgis again, something I no longer believed possible after Miss Julie and the even deeper pitfall of Time Code. Shock, too, was to discover such a commercial venture from Figgis, who has always strayed from the mainstream despite high critical standing (Leaving Las Vegas) or bright star-wattage (One Night Stand). And so, when an affluent New York couple and their pair of well-bred kids move to the country after the son was nearly run over, the property they buy in foreclosure brings some bad luck. Is it the erstwhile owner of the land, bought out from under him while in jail, attempting to swindle back what was once his? Or is there an anathema with greater and ambiguous repercussions? Or could it just be a case of over-excitable nerves in new territory? Well, the previews have done more than their basic position of recruiting viewers into the theater and enticing them with a solid mystery, but the good news is that the previews are misleading and the story travels down a route allowing more potential for dirt-in-the-eyes, water-in-the-shoes, and fog-on-the-mirror. No preparation or comfort zone will take the wind out of the structure and patience of the film, which has the benefit of offering far more of a reward than the generic direction it could have moved in. Itís a nice change when the trailers can set up a positive expectation, with the actual movie able to toss out the preconceptions, and vault over those initial expectations; it goes to show that no matter the time, no matter how advanced the material one has created or is creating with, there is still a place for the old fashioned. To swing back to Figgisí direction, there is not much, positive or negative, to say about it. He shows restraint in multiple aspects (and interestingly, the naked shoulder of Sharon Stone still qualifies as sex appeal apparently), he employs a real cinematographer, his ambitions donít rise above their potential, he doesnít run amuck with more than itís worth, and he makes some good use of low-angle shots. On the other hand, itís hard to go wrong with such staunch material. Additional steadfast support comes from the performances of Dennis Quaid, Kristen Stewart, Ryan Wilson, Dana Eskelson, Christopher Plummer, Stone, and Stephen Dorff.[Worth-seeing.]
"Figgis in the mainstream?"
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originally posted: 05/05/04 18:55:47