Daily Archives: January 19, 1998

Desperate Measures

The desperate measures in question are those taken by a San Francisco police officer (Andy Garcia) hoping to save his little boy’s life with a bone-marrow transplant. After discovering that the only available donor is a mass murderer (Michael Keaton) held under maximum security, he contrives to strike a deal, but it isn’t long before the killer gets loose in the hospital. Early on, Keaton manages to appear fairly creepy while settling into a Hannibal Lecter mode; then the formulaic nonsense escalates, and he along with everyone else is reduced to going through the usual motions. Henry Bean, Neal Jiminez, and David Klass are the credited screenwriters and Barbet Schroeder directed; with Marcia Gay Harden and Joseph Cross. (JR)… Read more »

Deep Rising

The generic elements in this horror thriller from Disney are all quite familiar: jewel thieves, luxury liner, a South China Sea monster that seems conceived as a deep-sea equivalent to Alien’s. But writer-director Stephen Sommers (Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book) is so efficient in placing and executing his cliches that he gives you a chilling run for your money. The monster itself, designed by the estimable Rob Bottin, makes a belated appearance, but there’s plenty of well-timed suspense in the meantime, and Treat Williams, Famke Janssen, Wes Studi, Kevin J. O’Connor, and Anthony Heald make up a highly serviceable cast. Predictably overextended, this is a creepy jaunt that occasionally wears one out but never flags. (JR)… Read more »

Underground

Though slightly trimmed by director-writer Emir Kusturica for American consumption, this riotous 167-minute satirical and farcical allegory about the former Yugoslavia from World War II to the postcommunist present is still marvelously excessive. The outrageous plot involves a couple of anti-Nazi arms dealers and gold traffickers who gain a reputation as communist heroes. One of them (Miki Manojlovic) installs a group of refugees in his grandfather’s cellar, and on the pretext that the war is still raging upstairs he gets them to manufacture arms and other black-market items until the 60s, meanwhile seducing the actress (Mirjana Jokovic) that his best friend (Lazar Ristovski) hoped to marry. Loosely based on a play by cowriter Dusan Kovacevic, this sarcastic, carnivalesque epic won the 1995 Palme d’Or at Cannes and has been at the center of a furious controversy ever since for what’s been called its pro-Serbian stance. (Kusturica himself is a Bosnian Muslim.) However one chooses to take its jaundiced view of history, it’s probably the best film to date by the talented Kusturica (Time of the Gypsies, Arizona Dream), a triumph of mise en scene mated to a comic vision that keeps topping its own hyperbole. In German and Serbo-Croatian with subtitles.… Read more »

Oscar And Lucinda

This quirky and watchable but disappointingly overproduced and undernourished period epic from Gillian Armstrong, set mainly in early colonial Australia, is adapted from Peter Carey’s novel about the singular bond between an English minister (Ralph Fiennes) and the owner of a Sydney glassworks (Cate Blanchett), both of whom have a passion for gambling. One reason why it disappoints is that it comes across as more the work of screenwriter Laura Jones (An Angel at My Table, The Portrait of a Lady, A Thousand Acres), who’s lately been specializing in high-minded literary adaptations, than of Armstrong, who tends to do better and more nuanced work with more intimate and domestic material (e.g., The Last Days of Chez Nous, Little Women). With Ciaran Hinds, Tom Wilkinson, and Richard Roxburgh. (JR)… Read more »