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by Jack Sommersby

"Bad Book, Bad Movie"
2 stars

Amazing that it topped over $100 million at the box office, though it would've been lower if ticket buyers had been granted refunds.

What's worse in a whodunit than the identity of the culprit being absolutely nonsensical is a complete and utter lack of anything even remotely resembling a discernible motive behind the killer's actions, with the puerile psychological thriller Sliver, an adaptation of a novel by best-selling author Ira Levin of the horror classic Rosemary's Baby, guilty on both counts. Which is a shame because it starts out well enough in an initially intriguing setting, that of a luxurious upscale Manhattan apartment building where book-publishing editor Carly Norris (Sharon Stone, in her first starring role since the blockbuster Basic Instinct of the year before) has just moved into for a fresh start having just ended an unproductive seven-year marriage. Unknownst to her before signing the lease, however, is that the woman who lived in the very same apartment before her was killed by a black-hooded fiend who threw her off the twentieth-floor balcony: we're shown this in the very first scene with the killer's face unseen, and the woman's reaction shows she clearly knows the person; but the police have officially closed the case as a suicide. The blonde woman looked an awful lot like Carly, which a kindly neighbor can't help but comment to her on; a little while later this elderly man is found dead in his shower with a broken neck with the cops writing it off as an accidental case of slipping in the tub. (Carly is soon looking up the building's history at the library, discovering it's being called the "Horror High Rise" with her apartment's previous tenant the third woman to die in the building, and you think Carly might be safer relocating to the nearest public-housing project.) Two male tenants try making a move on her, the boorish true-crime writer Jack Landsford (Tom Berenger) and suave video-game programmer Zeke Hawkins (Stephen Baldwin), with Carly more susceptible to Zeke's understated charm though not completely dismissive of Jack's occasional appeal. So far Sliver is passable, with the architectural details of this "sliver"-designed building and shots of the residents constantly being spied on with surveillance cameras and hidden microphones in every apartment from an unknown person's point-of-view reasonably alluring. The second half is a mess, though, in lacking both compression and genuine suspense, as was Levin's mediocre book, which screenwriter Joe Esterhas (also of Basic Instinct) hasn't improved upon, especially in terms of dialogue (overuse of a vibrator, Carly's best friend remarks, has left with with a "plastic yeast infection") and construction. The movie just isn't tense enough, and time and again you have to keep reminding yourself what it's about because nothing really seems at stake; the characters being no more than two-dimensional doesn't help, with a remote Stone and miscast Baldwin (who was actually superb just two months prior as the dexterous male escort in Three of Hearts) having zero in the way of chemistry. The director, the Australian Phillip Noyce, did much better with the 1989 high-seas thriller Dead Calm, and he's done something here I thought impossible - eliciting mere ordinary lighting from the best cinematographer in the business, Vilmos Zsigmond. Then there's the unveiling of the killer, which contextually makes about as much sense as the Bible read backwards, and no ratiocination whatsoever behind the slayings, leading to what surely ranks as the most disposable final line in this genre in ages. For all its high-falutin production values (the illustrious Bob Evans having produced it), the $40 million Sliver is startlingly inept, salaciously dumb.

It was reportedly severely compromised in the post-production phase, and it more than shows.

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originally posted: 09/30/20 08:01:42
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  21-May-1993 (R)



Directed by
  Phillip Noyce

Written by
  Joe Esterhas

  Sharon Stone
  William Baldwin
  Tom Berenger
  Polly Walker
  Colleen Camp

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