It wouldíve been the easiest thing in the world to write
in a thoroughly mediocre way. At root, the story is
basically an extended episode of
Law and Order:
a crime is committed by someone who has been able to buy his way out of
everything - but will his tricks work this time, and can he hold it all
together while his business machinations reach boiling point? Itís not a
revolutionary premise, but, this time, all the ingredients are there.
Good writing? Check. Good acting? Check. Good directing?
Check. Good soundtrack? Cliff Martinez, be mine forever.
is skillfully executed and wears the resultant polish
with justifiable pride. The end result is a slick film about the crimes
of the rich and famous, with all the attendant sex, luxury, indulgence,
selfishness, greed and sociopathy that you could hope for.
While the premise isnít particularly original or
transforms it into a solid, unpredictable cat-and-mouse narrative. The
sordid fortunes of the protagonist - played by Richard Gere in one of
his better performances - see-saw wildly throughout the film.
Importantly, though, these fluctuations translate into a very real
emotional maelstrom of tension, paranoia and dread that the viewer canít
help but feel. This main thread is offset by several subplots, but none
of these are redundant; each and every one drives the film to its
supremely effective (and somewhat unusual) conclusion.
Does the film make any missteps? Sure. It doesnít pass
Gereís relationship with his daughter could have been more fleshed out,
and her major dialogue scene with him doesnít quite ring true. Nor is it
clear to me that Susan Sarandon is really bringing the goods for the
majority of the film (although she certainly delivers towards the end).
And, frustratingly, the script occasionally treats key themes
(patriarchy comes to mind) with an eye-rolling heavy-handedness. But
these are quibbles. Either separately or in sum, they donít even come
close to spoiling the movie.
With movies like these - interpersonal power dramas set
in modern times, and dealing with those moving in social strata with a
disproportionate influence on society - there is a temptation to make
them not just relevant, but uber-relevant. There seems to be an urge to
clumsily turn them into treatises on grand social and psychological
themes - as if itís not enough to simply tell a really good story.
is a fantastic counterexample to this nonsense. A good
story, well told, can indeed be just as powerful and entertaining as
more grand and ambitious projects.