Archive for the ‘Shadow’ Category

Dos blurbos (1994)

January 15, 2007

(Originally published spring 1995 in The Gleaner of Rutgers University-Camden.)

 Trial by Jury

 **

 Joanne Whalley-Kilmer stars as a single mother selected for jury duty on a racketeering case involving mob kingpin Armand Assante. Naturally, Assante’s mob buddies (sometimes in the name of ex-crooked cop William Hurt) lean on the reticent Whalley-Kilmer in order to get her to vote for acquittal. At the same time, Whalley-Kilmer frets over whether she should go to the police and thus jeopardize the life of her young son, or submit to Assante’s goons and watch one of those classic miscarriages of justice. And in addition to that, she’s being visited in the middle of the night by Assante, who seems all to eager to convince the femme fatale that he should be freed.

Are you still with me? I haven’t even mentioned District Attorney Gabriel Byrne, who plays the he-man of the film. This would be the character whose sole purpose in the film is to save the femme fatale from certain death. Byrne, who sounds a little too much like an erstwhile Kennedy brother, is initially incensed that Whalley-Kilmer has not told him of Assante’s indiscretions, but (also quite naturally) begins to fall for her. Unfortunately, Byrne (who’s usually very good) delivers a one-note, stone-faced performance more reminiscent of , say Christopher Lambert. His character seems a little useless, too; it takes him a lot longer to figure out what’s going on than it should.

The movie is directed with inept gusto by Heywood Gould, who makes little use of his stars’ physical features (which would have made up for the huge plotholes), substituting bad camera angles and lack of genuine atmosphere. The plot itself is incredibly contrived — watch for the you-saw-it-coming jury confrontation scene, where Our Gal Whalley-Kilmer stands alone against all the other jurors, who, rightly, want to see Assante found guilty. 12 Angry Men it’s not, folks.

Hurt plays a man who’s switched allegiance many times in the past, and as a result the viewer is never sure whose side he’s on. It really doesn’t matter, though, because the character is so badly written that even Hurt wasn’t sure of the nationality – -his accent is nearly indecipherable. And to top it off, the performance is not among the acclaimed actor’s best.

This is a good movie if you’re in the mood for a good solid laugh, although all humor is unintentional. Whalley-Kilmer is making a career out of playing helpless victims, and one wishes she’d get to fight back with more pizzaz one day. With this cast, the movie should have been a lot better.

The Shadow
***

 Alec Baldwin stars as the Batman-like sleuth with the ability to “cloud men’s minds” and “know what evil lurks in the hearts of men,” and does a very admirable job, given that his hero has been unavoidably compared to the Cowled One and Dick Tracy, to name a couple.

First, some background. Wealthy man-about-town Lamont Cranston disappeared for seven years from the civilized world. We learn later that he has been in the Far East, learning all sorts of methods of conquering men’s minds. Now he’s back, and plays the same sort of dual role that Bruce Wayne has long enjoyed — rich socialite by day, do-good superhero by night. At about the same time that he finds true love (in the person of Penelope Ann Miller), Cranston learns that a descendant of Gengis Khan is back — and boy is he pissed! Khan, who is also from the Far East, also has those psychological abilities, and so it’s up to Our Hero to save the day for good people the world over.

Ok, so Howards End this isn’t, but by almost anyone’s standards it’s good, rollicking fun. You know The Shadow will find the bad guys;, the only question is how. Baldwin turns in a dead-on, wildly enjoyably performance as the helpful hero; Miller is perfectly alluring as his love interest. Jonathan Winters shows up as Cranston’s uncle and Tim Curry is a particularly nefarious bad guy-flunkie.

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