Wednesday 29 June 2011

Movie Review: In The Cut (2003)

A film which trips over its own self importance, In The Cut suffers from the most fatal of elemental mistakes in murder dramas: the killer, once revealed, has no motive, no backstory, no opportunity, and no business doing any killing except to satisfy the cheap ending. The real surprise is that director Jane Campion, who co-wrote the script, and Nicole Kidman, who produced, both should have known better. The other script culprit is Susanna Moore, who may not know any better, but deserves at least as much blame because the film is based on her novel.

In The Cut moves at a pace that would come in a solid third in a straight sprint with a turtle and a snail. Campion litters every scene with needless frilly embellishing shots to the point of insane distraction. It's the type of directorial excess that screams "look at my clever directing!", because really, for long stretches, nothing else is going on, and Campion felt compelled to stretch out proceedings to two numbing hours.

Frannie (Meg Ryan) is a school teacher living alone, and best friends with her sister Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Meg recently broke up with the creepy John (Kevin Bacon), although he continues to awkwardly stalk her. At a bar one night, Frannie discretely witnesses a man with a distinctive tattoo receiving a blow job from a woman with distinctive finger nails.

The girl is brutally murdered and chopped up, and one of her body parts is dumped near Frannie's apartment. Detective Malloy (Mark Ruffalo) shows up to investigate, and Frannie is immediately attracted to him. They end up having a torrid relationship: the one problem is that Malloy has that distinctive tattoo.

Meg Ryan cuts loose, drops her good girl image, and indulges her wilder side with a highly sexual, lust-driven role, and her performance holds the better moments of the film together, barely. Frannie is a sympathetic enough character, torn between passion, the desire for companionship, and a curious fear of the danger that may lie behind Malloy's motives.

But beyond that, In The Cut has little to recommend it: the detective work is sloppy, the character behaviours are bizarre, the secondary characters are forgettable, and the evil-doer, once revealed, is a blank. In The Cut should have just been cut.

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