Reviewed By Luke Pyzik
Posted 09/08/04 07:04:13

"Say Cheese"
1 stars (Total Crap)

There is a certain kind of movie that can be completely predictable, devoid of any morals, contain laughable over-the-top performances, and still manage to be very entertaining. “Paparazzi” is not that kind movie. It is not fun, entertaining, campy, or ironic. The concept involves a Hollywood action star that begins killing members of the paparazzi when they step too far out of line. It is a solid idea, ripe for satire or empty entertainment, but the movie suffers from being in the hands of a first time screenwriter who, according to the Internet Movie Database, hasn’t written so much as an email, and a first time feature director who used to be a hair stylist.

Cole Hauser stars as Bo Laramie, a rising movie star that overreacts when flashing cameras cause a car accident that sends his son into a coma. As an example of the technically proficient script by Forrest Smith, I offer this piece of dialogue that occurs when the doctor explains to Bo the condition of his son – “Comas are a tricky thing.” Oddly enough, this rather vague diagnosis is enough to satisfy Bo’s curiosity.

Hauser, who you probably know from sidekick roles in Dazed and Confused and Good Will Hunting, doesn’t seem to know exactly what the tone of the movie is supposed to be. He’s a talented actor lost at sea under the direction of Paul Abascal, and he teeters between dead seriousness and farce, never committing one way or the other. In one particularly strange line reading, he says the word “Bullshit” in the funniest way I’ve ever heard - though I’m not sure if it was intended to be humorous. There were only about four people in the theater, and I was the only one laughing.

As Bo makes a conscious decision to go on killing spree, he is being investigated by one Detective Burton (Dennis Farina). Burton is a painfully nice cop that seems lonely and out of place without a bad cop counterpart, but he manages to put the pieces together in what has to be one of the most cut and dry cases to ever come across his desk. Farina, who can always be counted on to turn in solid supporting work, is given little to do and is completely wasted in a throwaway role.

But nothing will quite prepare you for Tom Sizemore as Rex Harper, the head of the paparazzi scumbag gang. Sizemore knows exactly what kind of movie he is in, or at least what kind of movie he wants it to be, and does everything he can to turn in the tackiest performance possible. Sizemore screams and yelps, flails his eyes and gives half-assed lectures on the public’s need for paparazzi. The performance is horrendous, but it’s the closest the movie ever comes to campy entertainment.

All the terrible dialogue and ham-and-cheese performances would be forgivable if the movie could provide some entertaining action and well-choreographed kill scenes, but there is no hope for that either. The filmmakers must have forgotten why we bought a ticket in the first place. Bo has four targets, only one of which dies on-screen in a rather clever sequence involving a prop gun. The others, without giving anything away, are very disappointing. If this is supposed to be a mindless revenge thriller, it fails miserably.

There are times when the movie threatens to become fun, like every time Sizemore shows his goofy face or when some unexpected cameos turn up, but there are never enough entertaining scenes strung together in succession for it to build any kind of momentum. Instead, they are interrupted by endless scenes of nonsensical dialogue and setup for payoffs that never come.

It seems almost criminal for a movie with such a golden premise to not offer any kind of comment on the nature of celebrity or privacy. But still, had the movie succeeded on the very basic level of gratuitous action thriller, lack of social commentary would be excusable. Instead, what you have is a wasted idea with wasted talent in a movie that fails on every level possible. When the film finally reaches its climax there is no catharsis and no note of irony. There’s nothing to suggest the filmmakers were just joking around or that we were supposed to take the whole thing seriously. There is only the realization that the movie was slapped together by people who never really knew what they were doing in the first place.

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