“O” Excellent 0... Good .0.


The first time Sam Raimi and Billy Bob Thornton got together, as director and star of A Simple Plan, it was moider. With this second collaboration, now as director and writer, it’s even more moider. Murder in the small backwater town of Brixton, Georgia it would seem when the beloved daughter of the wealthy King family, sassy Jessica (Katie Holmes), goes missing. One local looks mighty guilty, thoroughly despicable redneck Donnie Barksdale (Keanu Reeves), who likes to spend his time huntin’, drinkin’ and whorin’ when he’s not beating his sparrow-like wife, Valerie (Hilary Swank). So when local psychic Annie Wilson (Cate Blanchett playing a character based on Thornton’s mother) has an incriminating vision, the already- weighted scales of justice topple. However, this being a supernatural whodunnit, all is not what it seems.

Average .0 Flawed O Poor

Blanchett in a good, solid supernatural whodunnit

The problem is that even at under two hours The

Thornton (assisted by old One False Move cohort Giff feels too long. Good on Thornton and Raimi

Tom Epperson) once again shows his affinity for portraying without stereotyping white trash folks (as he did in his own Oscar-winning opus, Slingblade) with a script that leisurely introduces the community and fleshes out the dozen or so major characters before turning to the film’s

Keanu spends his time huntin’, drinkin’

for setting the scene, but by the time the crime and its apparent culprit have been dealt with it feels like the film should be over. The convoluted series of plot twists which follows, essentially spreading suspicion over a number of other characters, really drags. The intent is to keep the audience guessing, but when the final twist is revealed it doesn’t

and WhOl’lfl’ When he’s not beating come as much ofa surprise. Two

central crime. There’s Jessica’s fiance,

respectable school teacher Wayne Collins (Greg Kinnear), hard-nosed, donut-munching Sherrif Johnson (J.K. Simmons), flashy attorney David Duncan (Gary Cole) and Buddy Cole (Giovanni Ribisi), who resembles To Kill A Mockingbird’s

words here: editing and pacing - reining in both would have helped. Nevertheless, Raimi’s direction is admirably unobtrusive; he lets the fine (yep, that includes Reeves) cast do its job. That said, Raimi can’t help but slip in a few of the old Evil Dead stylish scares into this slice of Southern Gothic, and they are genuine shockers.

Boo Radley. This attention to detail is a refreshing (Miles Fielder)

change from the lamebrain Hollywood norm.

THRILLER PROOF OF LIFE (15) 135 mins .00

With Hollywood churning out political thrillers left. right and centre these days. any film which attempts to cover this well-worn path needs to have something

getting lost in the sea of mediocrity. Sadly for Proof Of Life. it has absolutely nothing exceptional about it whatsoever.

every single stereotype and formulaic set-piece that eXists in

Set in a fictional South American

country called Tecala. which is rife with corruption, drugs and civil war. work together to secure her the story revolves around the kidnap of Peter Bowman (played competently enough by David Morse). an American engineer working on a dam project for an oil reasonable rate thanks to Taylor company. As negotiations for his pretty exceptional about it to avoid release start. it transpires that the oil company haven't been paying Peter's insurance. leaving his wife Alice (played by Meg Ryan) high and dry. Until Russell Crowe's conforming as it does to just about kidnap and ransom expert. Terry Thorne. decides to take the case anyway. What then follows is the the genre. predictable blossoming of unspoken and forbidden love

I General re/ease from Fri 2 Mar.

between Alice and Terry as they

husband's return, interspersed with

a fair old smattering of gung-ho.

Vietnam-style fighting in the Jungle. All of this rattles along at a

Hackford's zippy direction. and the film has enough big bucks behind it to look pretty spectacular at times. But very little in the way of original insight. dialogue or plot ever rears its head. What's more surprising. perhaps. is that With two such assured and experienced leading actors. there is little in the way of on screen magnetism. Considering the rumours that surrounded Crowe and Ryan during the making of Proof Of Life and the post-production affair. there is very little sparkle between the txvo. leaVing a lot of their cruoal scenes feeling flat.

Proof Of Life. then, is like so much Hollywood product these days at times nice to look at. occasionally diverSionary. but ultimately it doesn't amount to anything more than just another average blockbuster.

(Doug Johnstonel

Unremarkable Hollywood actioner with Ryan and Crowe I General release from Fri 2 Mar.

new releases Film

COMEDY THE TAO OF STEVE (15) 88 mins 00.

Dex is an auenige locking, oxen-.eight kint‘iergarten teacher. and .1 Mg hit with the ladies. The kt“, to his unlrkel, lOll‘ldllilC Success is the Tao of Steve. .1 SGli-lli\.(?lil(‘:(l mix of Buddhist thought and bar-room ‘.'.|S(lt)ll‘ in Willt‘l) a man aspires to be like film star Steve McQueen hi. following certain rules; Nexer even think about getting laid during a first date itriat may. comerser you are more likely to bed her'i; tn to "be excellent at something in the woman's presence; and when she shows an interest. back off and let her pursue you.

What all this philosole has got the l\".’(}lll\,‘f§()lll(?tllllltl Dex iplayed charmingly by Donal Loguei. apart from. the admiration of his housemates. is a string of brief encounters and a ciandestine affair with a married worrian. So when he falls heavily for the resolutely unimpressed set designer Syd (Greer Goodman. sister of director JCnniplirl he is forced to reevaluate his \.vell-trorl(len routines.

Logue and Goodman take off in this amiable American indie hit

A faVOurite at last year's Sundance Film Festival. The Tao of Steve is based on the bizarre real life of a friend of Jeriniphr's. Duncan North. who co- wrote the script wrth the Sisters. Showing how rules for dating can become a male defence against emotional commitment. the comedy steers an amiable. if fairly predictable path through the peaks and troughs of Dex and Syd's relationship. If Goodman's low impact direction, reinforced by a iaunty guitar sOundtrack and sun-soaked New MeXico setting. means that heartache for the characters is never really on the cards. there is Just enough drama to give the wrtticrsms an edge.

Logue. last seen as one of Mel Gibson's merry men in The Patriot. epitomises the laidback approach. As a Lothario who's gone to seed. he displays a subtle comic touch. a sly air Of diffidence invariably surrOunding his words of Wisdom. while Greer Goodman is nicely believable as his level-headed straight woman. (Simon Wardell)

I Selected release from Fri 2 Mar.

1—15 Mar 2001 THE LIST 27