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Double Negative
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by Chris Parry

"A double negative doesn't always leave you with a positive."
2 stars

It’s 1980. You’re making a suspense thriller starring Michael Sarrazin, Susan Clark and Anthony Perkins. You don’t have a lot of money to spend, so you shoot it in Canada. Who are you going to get for a supporting cast? Why, the only recognizable Canadian actors of the era, of course – the entire cast of Second City TV. Never mind that this is a drama…

Okay, so the above logic makes no sense at all, but that’s what happened here. You’ve got what seems to be a first-rate thriller bubbling along to a boil, when all of a sudden Strange Brew’s Doug McKenzie walks into frame. “Hello,” you think to yourself, “looks like there’s some comedy in this thing, eh?”

Only there isn’t. Not a speck of it, despite the fact that the cast also includes John Candy, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Dave Thomas, Joe Flaherty and more. In fact, the only funny lines in the whole film come from Anthony Perkins, who delivers deadpan dialogue that almost salvages the rest of the film from turning into swampland. Sarrazin, as a photojournalist on the hunt for his wife’s killer, is the thespian equivalent of Nyquil. There should be a warning before each of his movies advising viewers not to operate heavy machinery.

His lover, assisting him in the search, is played by Susan Clark. Though she’s a fine actress, she’s also somewhat scary from a male perspective. With a jaw more chiseled than Buzz Lightyear’s and shoulders that Atlas would be proud of, I’d put five bucks on her if she was in a brawl with Linda Hamilton, and there ain’t many folks I’d say that about. Watching her (even when she’s taking her clothes off), you get the impression that even if you did get her in the sack, she’d be wearing a strap-on and having you calling her daddy.

But the star of the show here is Anthony Perkins. Whether he’s the killer or just an ultrasuave dude is unclear for the most part, but he oozes more bravado than Clint Eastwood in a steroid frenzy, and that’s always fun to watch. Perkins has the best lines in the film by far and if he were the center of attention throughout, this would be a fantastic flick.

But he isn’t. So it’s not.

So what’s the SCTV connection? Simple really – SCTV series director George Bloomfield also directed this flick, and he did it just as poorly as he directed earlier big screen efforts like Child Under a Leaf. Why use all this comedic talent in such a wasteful manner? Eugene Levy’s split second of screen time is obscured by someone walking through the shot, Catherine O’Hara’s is barely a second longer, even John Candy is on and off-screen in five seconds.

And it’s not like Bloomfield didn’t have help in the writing department – four different screenwriters have accepted credit for this film and who knows how many wanted their names in no way associated with the thing?

While today Bloomfield is a respected TV series director, he still makes occasional foray into feature films once every five or six years. Like Double Negative, they’re all pretty ordinary affairs and best forgotten.

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originally posted: 11/18/02 12:53:41
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  02-Feb-1980 (NR)


  02-Feb-1980 (R)

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