Films: Drama/Romance


REVIEWED BY DAN STUMPF:

   

A GOOD WOMAN. Lions Gate, 2004. Helen Hunt, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Wilkinson, Milena Vukotic, Stephen Campbell Moore, and Mark Umbers. Screenplay by Howard Himelstein, loosely based on Lady Windermere’s Fan,   by Oscar Wilde. Directed by Mike Barker.

   Whothehell did they ever think was gonna go see a movie called A Good Woman?

   A pity, that title, because this is an excellent, film: moving, witty and romantic, even as it runs over Wilde’s play with a mulching mower.

   

   For starters, writer Howard Himelstein moves the action from London to Italy, the scenic towns near Naples, a visual treat beautifully exploited by director Mike Barker. Then he turns Mrs. Erlynne (Helen Hunt) and the Windermeres (Johansson & Umbers) into Americans, the latter two vacationing in luxury, the former penniless and on the prowl.

   From there, Himelstein touches on the play in fits and starts, tossing in Wildean epigrams of his own composing, opening out the action, and rearranging scenes while flirting with the original story line: Mr. Windemere seems to be having an affair with the predatory Mrs. Erlynne, and when Mrs. Windermere finds out, she flees to the amorous Lord Darlington (Stephen Campbell Moore) leading to a tense confrontation on his yacht, where Truth rears its ugly head and promptly ducks back down again when Love shows up.

   All this would be plenty enough for an enjoyable movie, but again, Himelstein gives us more: two wonderfully thought out and affecting scenes (not in the play) that Ms Hunt caries off movingly, just by hiding her emotions, so we can read our own feelings into the thing.

   All of which got fed to the lions. The critics sneered, turned thumbs down, and audiences turned the attention to the cinematic gladiators and chariot races on other screens at the multiplex. Too bad. They missed a fine movie.

   

REVIEWED BY DAN STUMPF:

   

THE ROARING TWENTIES. Warner Brothers, 1939. James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Priscilla Lane, Gladys George, Jeffrey Lynn, Frank McHugh, Paul Kelly, Joe Sawyer, and Abner Biberman. Written by Jerry Wald, Richard Macaulay, Robert Rossen, Mark Hellinger, Earl Baldwin, Frank Donoghue, and John Wexley. Directed by Raoul Walsh.

   Not so much a roar as a whimper. Warners obviously lavished a lot of care on this one (Just look at all those writers.) and the result was a lot of tedium.

   Note that The Roaring Twenties was made in 1939. Everyone who worked on it, and most of the audience, would have remembered the era in a glow of youthful reminiscence, and the film became less a gangster picture than an exercise in nostalgia. So in place of fast-moving action, we get lengthy and rather pedestrian musical productions of the golden oldies of yesteryear.

   The story (WARNING!) starts with three doughboys (Cagney, Bogart & Lynn) who meet in the trenches of The Great War and strike up a tentative friendship. Back at home, Lynn becomes a lawyer, and Cagney a bootlegger who runs an honest racket, while Bogart tends toward the seamier side of law-breaking. Cagney takes a shine to young songstress Priscilla Lane, and invests in a nightclub to showcase her talents, but she falls for Lynn, and when they run off and get married, Jimmy takes to drink.

   Come the Great Depression — seems like everything was “the Great” back then — Cagney loses everything and ends up a lowly cab driver, whenever he’s sober enough to drive. Chantoosie Gladys George has stuck with him through all this, with patience that outlasted mine by at least a half hour of running time, but he still burns his torch for Priscilla.

   If all this seems a bit staid, that’s because it is. And as I say, it’s not helped any at all by musical interpolations that stop the story quite dead in its proverbial tracks. Compare this with Edward G. Robinson’s similar arc in The Hatchet Man, a fast-paced half-hour shorter, and you’ll see what I mean.

   But then there’s the ending.

   If you’ve never seen The Roaring Twenties, I won’t spoil it for you. Suffice it to say that Lynn and Bogart end up on opposite sides, and when Bogie gets menacing, Ms Lane turns to Cagney for help. The scene where he confronts Bogart is perfectly choreographed and effectively played: seedy cabbie vs big-shot gangster, with Jimmy at first humble, and Bogart dismissive.

   The knowing, defeated look in Cagney’s eyes when Bogart says, “It’s cold out, Eddie. I think I’ll have the boys give you a ride home.” Is almost worth sitting through the preceding ninety minutes. And Bogie’s cowardice when things go bad is just as convincing. The burst of action that follows is beautifully done by Raoul Walsh, a master stylist whose elegance was never fully appreciated.

   I just wish the ending had come a bit earlier in the film. As it is, it makes the movie memorable. Watch it, but keep a finger poised on the Fast Forward button.

   

REVIEWED BY DAVID VINEYARD:

   

THE WIFE OF MONTE CRISTO. PRC, 1946. John Loder, Lenore Aubert, Fritz Kortman, Charles Dingle, Eduardo Ciannelli, Martin Kosleck, Fritz Feld, Eva Gabor. Screenplay by Dorcas Cochran, Edgar G. Ulmer, and Franz Rosenwalk (Francis Rosenwald) suggested by the novel by Alexandre Dumas. Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer.

   Almost from the start there were sequels to Alexandre Dumas mega selling The Count of Monte Cristo including The Daughter of Monte Cristo and The Treasure of Monte Cristo by Jules Lermina published orginally as by Dumas himself. The Wife of Monte Cristo is not a sequel, but a retelling, adding a dash of Zorro and casting Haydee, Dantes Indian ward who is a key part of his revenge plot, as the wife of the title.

   The time is 1832, the place France where corrupt government is opposed by the mysterious masked man known as the Avenger. The Prefect of the Police, de Villefort (John Loder) has two reasons to stop the Avenger, one he ruined his father, the other because he is the head of the corrupt elements in the governent backed by the wealthy Danglars (Charles Dingle) and Malliard (Fritz Kortman) who are both part of a plot to sell contaminated medicine during an outbreak of fever.

   De Villefort has set a trap for the Avenger, and it very nearly works when his men ambush the Avenger and his hand is wounded. Now de Villefort is sure he has the man he suspects is the Avenger, the mysterious and wealthy Edmund Dantes, the Count of Monte Cristo (Martin Kosleck).

   Monte Cristo manages to outwit de Villefort, going out of town to his hunting lodge and leaving his beautiful wife Haydee (Lenore Aubert) in charge and in contact with the Avengers legion of men.

   But de Villefort still suspects Monte Cristo and the only way to keep him off balance is if the Avenger appears while Monte Cristo is gone so Haydee chooses to don the mask and black costume of the masked hero.

   Meanwhile de Villefort, still certain Monte Cristo is the Avenger, romances Haydee enlisting Mme Malliard (Eva Gabor) in his game to set a trap for the count. But for a time Haydee manages to outwit him, even capturing, putting on trial, and executing Malliard under de Villefort’s nose (in the best sequence of the film shot in smoky dark inns, wine cellars, and on Parisian roof tops), which results in Haydee being arrested, and now it is up to Monte Cristo to return from his hunting lodge and free his wife and avenge his honor as de Villefort has discovered from his spy (Fritz Feld) Monte Cristo is Edmund Dantes.

   All this is standard cloak and dagger, and done on a low budget, but in this case done stylishly by director Edgar G. Ulmer who takes a fairly strong script, an interesting and intelligent heroine in Aubert, who is convincing equally in cape and mask and low cut gown, a dashing and despicable villain in Loder, and a surprisingly dashing and adept hero in Kosleck, who is off screen for much of the film, but returns in time to outwit de Villefort and confront him in his own palace in a well staged duel to the death. Considering Kosleck is best remembered for low budget villainy he is quite good as the swashbuckling mystery man.

   A better than usual supporting cast of Kortman, Dingle, Gabor, Ciannelli, Anthony Warde, and Feld add to the fun while Bruce Lester and Robert J. Wilkie are unbilled in small parts.

   Virginia Christine has a nice bit as a woman who hides Monte Cristo from the soldiers.

   Mostly it is Ulmer who makes this worthwhile. While I don’t quite hold with the auteur theory of Ulmer’s genius, he was capable of making the most of a low budget, poor lighting, inexpensive sets, and a feel for German Expressionism. Here the directors eye and ability to make the most of very little combined with a decent cast and the usual mix of desirable women, flashing swords, swirling cloaks, and masked heroes works better than you might expect.

   This is by no means a great film, but it holds its own with better known and better financed sequels to Monte Cristo like the two Louis Hayward outings The Return of Monte Cristo and The Son of Monte Cristo. Considering those two are well respected among fans of swashbucklers that’s saying quite a bit for this film.

   

BARRICADE. 20th Century Fox, 1939. Alice Faye, Warner Baxter, Charles Winninger, Arthur Treacher, Keye Luke, Willie Fung, Philip Ahn. Directed by Gregory Ratoff.

   In the midst of war-torn China, an isolated, almost forgotten American consulate is besieged by Mongolian bandits, Trapped inside, among others, are a beautiful American woman (traveling incognito without a passport as the Russian wife of a dead American) and a reporter who is “temporarily” between jobs, fired for having concocted an interview with a Chinese general who (unbeknownst to him) was dead at the time.

   On the surface this is nothing more than a love story, taking place against a background of history’s making, filled with suspense and brave deeds, but once again the real hero is neither of the two leading stars. As the consul who is all but forgotten by his country, Charles Winninger turns in an outstanding performance as a patriot who has not forgotten his country a fraction of an inch. Seemingly bumbling and naive, Winninger shows that his character knows exactly what is going on, and that trampling on the rights of Americans is not an action that should be taken lightly.

   In other words, an old-fashioned movie that’s as timely as last month’s headlines.

– Reprinted from Mystery*File #32, July 1991.

   

REVIEWED BY DAN STUMPF:

   

W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM – The Narrow Corner. William Heinemann Ltd., UK, hardcover, 1932.

THE NARROW CORNER. Warners, 1933. Douglas Fairbanks Jr, Patricia Ellis, Ralph Bellamy, Dudley Digges, Artur Hohl, Reginald Owen, Willie Fung, and Sidney Toler. Screenplay by Robert Presnell. Directed by Alfred E. Green.

ISLE OF FURY. Warners, 1936. Humphrey Bogart, Margaret Lindsay, Donald Woods, E.E. Clive, Paul Graetz, George Regas, Tetsu Komai, Miki Morita, and Frank Lackteen. Screenplay by Robert Hardy Andrews and William Jacobs. Directed by Frank McDonald.

   The Narrow Corner finds Maugham striding confidently through Joseph Conrad territory, with a Marlow-like narrator recalling his encounter with a young wastrel out cruising the south seas to evade a murder rap in Australia. With the ship laid up for repairs on a remote island, the young man meets a family of simple, decent Dutch traders and finds love (or does he?) when it’s too late (or is it?)

   Maugham does a splendid job with the locations, the simple plot and the complex characterizations, but it sometimes seems he’s trying too hard to write a Serious Novel when he could be telling a Good Story. I should also add, in case you’re bothered by it, that this is the homosexiest straight novel I’ve seen in some time: the women are generally predatory or self-absorbed, and Maugham spends a lot of time contrasting the physical beauty and innocence of the young men with the saggy, baggy dissipation of their elders.

   Despite the subtext, The Narrow Corner was snapped up by Warners and filmed just a year after publication. In those heady, pre-code days, Hollywood could still exploit the steamy exoticism of the thing, and director Alfred E. Green and writer Robert Presnell did rather well by it, Presnell excising Maugham’s pretensions, and Green slapping the story on screen with pace and style.

   Corner offers one of the best storm-at-sea scenes ever in the Movies, plus a cast of able thespians (including Doug Fairbanks Jr. as the wastrel, Patricia Ellis as the love-starved island girl, Dudley Digges and Arthur Hohl as dope-addict doctor and crooked captain, and Sidney Toler as a tough “fixer.”) delivering some sharp lines. The film falls down only in the casting of Ralph Bellamy, the mere appearance of whom gives away the ending immediately.

   A few years later, Warners went to the well again, and to their credit, they made an enjoyable “B” picture out of the thing. True, they tossed out most of Maugham’s novel (He got screen credit anyway, which he may or may not have welcomed.) but they filled it up with crackerjack ideas of their own invention: shifty natives planning robbery and fomenting unrest; a larcenous skipper prone to murder; undersea mayhem, and even a hokey octopus!

   Humphrey Bogart, sporting an unflattering mustache, stars as a husband balanced precariously on the edge of cuckoldry when mysterious castaway Donald Woods turns up on his remote tropical island. Wise old Doctor E.E. Clive is quick to intuit the attraction between Woods and Bogey’s bride (lovely Margaret Lindsay, whose star burned steadily in Hollywood but somehow never caught fire) but writers Andrews and Jacobs cut away to the action scenes before things get too syrupy.

   They also do a good job of fleshing out the characters to more than B-movie dimensions. Director McDonald lets his actors expand to fit the parts, as his camera moves gracefully through the studio tropics. As for Bogart, well, this was the point in his career when Warners was still wondering what to do with him, the years he spent playing second-leads, vampires and Mexican bandits. He looks a bit as if at any moment the writers might decide to kill off his character, and the uncertainty works well in this context. It’s not Maugham’s novel, but it’s a dandy bit of entertainment in the Warners style.

   

THE BARBARIAN. MGM, 1933. Ramon Navarro, Myrna Loy, Reginald Denny, C. Aubrey Smith, Edward Arnold, Hedda Hopper.  Screenwriters: Anita Loos & Elmer Harris. Directed by
Sam Wood.

   Myrna Loy is the only reason that anyone would watch this movie today. (And whatever became of Ramon Navarro?) It’s a strange mixture of comedy and strong melodrama, and maybe all the more fascinating (and “keepable”) because of it. (Or maybe not, since I’ve already reused the tape and recorded over it after watching it only once.)

   Here’s the story line. Besides being a guide, Navarro is a romantic gigolo who spends his time watching the Cairo train station for the arrival of rich foreign tourist women – rich, lonesome, and easy prey for men such as this. When Myrna Loy’s train comes in, however, he immediately drops everything (and everyone) else, and from that time on, she is the object of his never-ending attention and affection.

   This causes some problems, mostly amusing, at the beginning. She is already engaged to be married. (Reginald Denny is a stuffed shirt, true, but she loves him.) She also has the unfortunate ability to see through Navarro’s “charms.” She is flattered, but she spurns his advances – and this is a bad mistake. Suddenly the movie isn’t quite so funny any more. In fact, in a wedding scene that comes soon after, the atmosphere is extremely tense indeed.

   From here, this slightly risque, crazy-quilt tale muddles its way through to a conclusion that could only be described as “totally expected,” but through it all, Myrna Loy somehow still manages to hold her own. This maybe the only movie in which she is seen taking (and leaving) a bubble bath, and now that I am thinking about it, maybe I shouldn’t have erased it after all.

– Reprinted from Mystery*File #32, July 1991, in slightly revised form.

   

REVIEWED BY DAVID VINEYARD:

   

WEDDING PRESENT. Paramount Pictures, 1936. Cary Grant, Joan Bennett, George Bancroft, Conrad Nagel, William Demarest, Gene Lockhart, Edward Brophy. Screenplay: Joseph Anthony, based on a story by Paul Gallico. Directed by Richard Wallace.

BIG BROWN EYES. Paramount Pictures, 1936. Cary Grant, Joan Bennett, Walter Pidgeon, Lloyd Nolan, Alan Baxter, Marjorie Gateson, Isabel Jewel, Douglas Fowley, Henry Brandon, Joe Sawyer. Screenplay by Raoul Walsh, Bert Hanlon, based on the stories “Big Brown Eyes” and “Hahsit Babe” by James Edward Grant. Directed by Raoul Walsh.

   These two early Cary Grant starring vehicles are both bright genre films mixing screwball comedy, crime, and adventure and both co-starring Joan Bennett still a blonde, just before dying her hair dark in Tay Garnett’s Trade Winds would change her career forever.

   Wedding Present is a screwball comedy about Chicago reporters Charlie Mason and Monica “Rusty” Fleming who as the film opens are flirting with marriage, but cold feet on both their parts as well as an addiction to elaborate practical jokes are the bane of their long suffering City Editor George Bancroft, who would fire them if they weren’t such good reporters.

   Which they prove in short order by angling an interview with a visiting Archduke (Gene Lockhart), taking him on a monumental toot where they end up at the lake house of aviator George Meeker. Not only do they get an exclusive interview with the Archduke, they rescue New York gangster Smiley Benson from drowning earning his eternal gratitude, and learning a ship is lost in a storm on the lake hijack Meeker and his plane managing to find the missing ship and get a double headline before the noon edition.

   When Bancroft can no longer put up with either of them he retires and Grant finds himself promoted to City Editor which infuriates Bennett when she comes back from a vacation. She heads off to New York where she meets obnoxiously obvious self-help author Roger Dodacker (Conrad Nagel) and gets engaged to him so Grant quits and heads to New York to win her back with the help of Smiley and a bit of kidnapping, false fire alarms, and a renewed sense of insanity.

   Appropriately the films ends as they are carried away on top of a firetruck headed for Hillview Sanitarium.

   It’s almost, but not quite a prequel to His Girl Friday as you can easily see Charlie and Rusty maturing to become Walter and Hildy.

   
   Crime is central rather than incidental to Big Brown Eyes.

   In this one Bennett is Eve Fallon, a manicurist who becomes a hot shot reporter and teams with her cop boyfriend Danny Barr (Grant) to solve the murder of a child after their bickering gets her fired from her job as a manicurist.

   Walter Pidgeon is Richard Morey a slick lawyer who gets Lloyd Nolan’s gangster Russ Cortig off when a stray shot results in the death of a woman’s baby (Marjorie Gateson). The bickering Eve and Danny reunite when a disgusted Danny quits the force to get Nolan and crooked lawyer Pidgeon and the result is a fast moving, fast talking, surprisingly tough little film in a minor hard-boiled key — the kind of thing George Harmon Coxe, Dwight Babcock, and Richard Sale used to write — with Grant surprisingly good as a tough smart cop operating mostly like a private eye.

   Raoul Walsh was one of the most capable action directors of all time and no mean hand at comedy, so this one moves hardly pausing for a breath as the action gallops by. Maybe it wouldn’t make the pages of Black Mask, but I can imagine it in Dime Detective  or Detective Fiction Weekly.

   The interest here is in seeing two major stars both on the cusp of breaking big in a pair of fast acting genre films and backed with first rate co-stars in the kind of thing the studios used to turn out seemingly effortlessly.

   Wedding Present recently showed up streaming on Classic Reels and Big Brown Eyes can still be found on DVD from its 2014 release. Neither movie is a classic by any means, but both stars are well represented in these films that are fast, funny, and smart full of bright dialogue, wit, and movement.
   

REVIEWED BY DAN STUMPF:

   

ANGEL FACE. RKO, 1953. Robert Mitchum, Jean Simmons, Herbert Marshall and Kenneth Tobey. Written by Frank Nugent, Oscar Millard and Frank Erskine. Directed by Otto Preminger.

   One of those movies like Woman on the Beach that puts me at a loss. It’s compelling, dull, forceful, meandering, ordinary and dreamlike all at the same time. I couldn’t call it a really successful film, but once I start watching it I have to finish.

   The plot has Robert Mitchum involved with a potential murderess, as in Out of the Past, but without that film’s lush romanticism. Everyone in Angel Face is worried about conventional things like jobs and living expenses, which mitigates against the interest of the whole thing but adds considerably to the realism. The story moves at a snail’s pace as working-stiff Mitchum tries to figure out whether or not he loves wealthy neurotic Jean Simmons, while she tries to get around to murdering her stepmother.

   So things just sort of drift along until we suddenly realize, about the same time Mitchum does, that he has somehow moved too far away from his workaday life to return to it, and that his old friends don’t want him back anyway. About this time, the story shifts into Heavy Melodrama from which, like its hero, it tries to draw back but never quite gets there.

   The ending, with another working stiff calling to a man who will never answer, somehow sums the whole thing up with a poetic terseness that lingers in the mind…. as I say, not an easy film to like, but one that stays with you.

   

REVIEWED BY JONATHAN LEWIS:

THE TOWN. Warner Bros., 2010. Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively, Pete Postlethwaite. Adapted from Chuck Hogan’s 2004 novel Prince of Thieves. Director: Ben Affleck. Currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

   It begins with a bank heist in Boston. Well-choreographed, with director Ben Affleck in full control of a fluid situation, The Town starts off with unbridled action. It sparks and sizzles with furious electricity, reminiscent of other bank robbery/heist films, most notably Michael Mann’s Heat (1995). And with a few exchanged glances between robber and captive, the plot becomes clear. This is primarily to be a movie about the relationship between a bank robber and the female assistant bank manager whom he forced into opening the vault at gunpoint. That will form the core of the tale yet to unfold.

   Ben Affleck, who stars as well directs, portrays “Doug” MacRay, a long-term resident of the Charlestown section of north Boston, with the city almost becoming a fundamental character in the list of players. He, along with his friend Jem Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), were raised in near poverty in the townie Irish neighborhood and now lead a crew of thieves. Reporting to local kingpin Fergie Colm (Pete Postlethwaite), they are skilled professionals who are willing to use threats of violence to achieve their objectives.

   All this begins to change when Doug begins to fall for his former hostage Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall). Although he initially follows her around to see what she knows about the bank robbery he took part in, Doug slowly begins to imagine getting out of his life of crime and creating a new one with her. Complicating matters is Doug’s former flame, oxycontin addict Kris Coughlin (an underutilized Blake Lively), who also happens to be Jem’s sister. Not to mention the two persistent local FBI agents on his trail.

   Overall, this is a solid crime drama – with the emphasis on drama. Although there are action sequences, including a suspenseful third act robbery sequence filmed on location near Fenway Park, the film’s primary focus is on the relationships between the characters. While the complicated relationship between Doug and Claire is the central focus of the story, Doug’s decidedly mixed feelings toward his father also plays a prominent role in the narrative.

   Unfortunately, what prevents this heist film from being anything overly exceptional is the film’s reliance on too many outworn tropes. The forced sentimentalism designed to make the viewer feel sympathy for Doug occasionally feels cheap.

   Without giving anything away, let’s just say that the final ten minutes or so of the movie in particular feels artificial. It’s not that what you see couldn’t have happened; rather, it’s the way that it’s visually presented that could feel grating, especially to crime film aficionados. The ending feels at once tragically inevitable and completely out of left field. Similarly, it’s somehow off-putting to have such an ambiguously tidy ending to an emotionally messy and nuanced film.

   Affleck is a skillful director who gets the most out of his exceptionally talented cast, including Victor Garber (Alias), who has a brief cameo as a hostage, and veteran character actor Chris Cooper who portrays his incarcerated father. There are some flourishes that I found distracting, such as his tendency to repeatedly use drone footage of Boston to remind the viewer where the film was set (as if anyone would forget?) and his decision to employ grimy black and white cinematography for flashbacks.

   But don’t let that stop you from watching this one. Affleck’s immersion in his character, Boston accent and all, is near complete. Directing oneself is not always the humblest of tasks. He pulls it off with sincerity.

   

HARD EIGHT. The Samuel Goldwyn Company, 1996. Philip Baker Hall (Sydney), John C. Reilly (John Finnegan), Gwyneth Paltrow (Clementine), Samuel L. Jackson (Jimmy), Philip Seymour Hoffman. Screenwriter-director: Paul Thomas Anderson. Currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

   I watched this one late last year, and if I actually rated movies and kept lists of such rankings, this one would have come out close to the top. (Please note that if I were to put together such non-existent lists, they would be for the year that I watched them, not the year they were released.)

   It was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson in his feature film debut, and cinematically speaking it’s a dazzler. Or it is if you like movies set in casinos (in Reno), with lots and lots of neon lights, cheap diners and even cheaper hotels and drab apartment buildings. Anderson also wrote the screenplay, and it’s a dazzler, too, wordwise. Not in a David Mamet sense, but in the sense that the words the characters in this movie are exactly the words the characters would say, if they were in the real world.

   Plotwise? That’s something of another matter. It is thin, I admit, and it seems thinner than it really is since it is so slow to develop. An elderly man named Sidney whose face looks like it’s seen all of the woes of the world (Philip Baker Hall) takes a young man named John (John C. Reilly) whom he finds slumped outside the door of a diner, the money he needs to bury his mother all gambled away, under his wing.

   The young man, not the most sophisticated young man in any part of the world, but especially not in Reno, becomes the older man’s protégé, the latter obviously knowing his way around a gambling hall very well. Why he does so we do not know, but we are forced by the script (I do not know how) to assume (hope) it is for a good reason. And do we keep watching, although nothing really is happening? Indeed we do.

   There are two more players: Clementine (Gwyneth Paltrow) as a casino waitress who moonlights as a hooker and if anything is less sophisticated than John. What we do know is that he is attracted to her. Then there is Jimmy (Samuel L. Jackson), whose brashness Sidney dislikes immediately but whom John considers his new best friend. At this point we still do not know what is really happening, but this is also the point at which the plot finally does kick in.

   And it is also the point at which I ironically will stop talking about the plot of this movie. Suffice it to say that from this point on, some of players will do some stupid things, and we are not surprised because these are some of the stupid things people like this would do.

   We also learn a good many things that we did not know before, and although we did not know them before, everything all of sudden falls into place exactly as they would have all along, if we had known what they were.

   I’d call this neo-noir, even though it ends on what I consider a good note, but shakily so, as people such as those in this movie are not exempt from the realization on the part of the viewer that it is not guaranteed that people such as these will only do one stupid thing in each of their lives.
   

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