The Tribune - Spectrum


Sunday, October 27, 2002
Wide Angle

Original Sin that you will enjoy
Ervell E. Menezes

REMEMBER French New Wave filmmaker Francois Truffaut’s ‘The Bride Wore Black’ made in the early 1970s? What a film! It is based on a novel by Cornell Woolrich who has also written the novel "Waltz Into Darkness" that is the inspiration for the latest Hollywood box office hit Original Sin.

A scene from Original Sin

Both the films deal with mail-order brides and both of them shuttle between two genres, love story and detective. May be The Bride Wore Black is more about vengeance with Jeanne Moreau giving the performance of her life as the vengeful widow. Original Sin seems to shuttle between passionate love and the detective when it finally ends up...oops I almost gave it away. Shifting genres of films have a tendency of sacrificing credibility, don’t they?

But until then it had the viewer engrossed for most of its 105 minutes. There may be a yawn here and there but the presence of two very talented performers Antonio Banderas and Angelina Jolie also gives the film a boost.

Wealthy Cuban coffee merchant Luis Vargas (Banderas) has chosen his mail-order bride Julia (Jolie) from Delaware, US. He picks her up at the dock at 6 a.m. and they are married by 9 a.m. But Julia has sent him a picture of a Plain Jane so that he would not be enraptured by her beauty, or so she says. Luis in turn tells her he’s a humble clerk in a coffee company when in fact he owns it. He didn’t want her to covet his riches.

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So both have something in common. They are liars, not to be trusted. But once in his arms Julia becomes someone else. Whether it is love or lust or plain sex, they seem to devour each other and are consumed by love. That is till one not-so-fine day Julia runs away with all his money. Luis is stunned out of his wits. Like Jeanne Moreau in The Bride Wore Black he vows vengeance. But is he strong enough to carry out his threat?

Enter private detective Walter Down (Thomas Jane) sent at the behest of Julia’s sister Emily because she hasn’t heard from Julia, or so the private detective says. But this is the beginning of the intrigue. It is a love triangle no doubt and slowly, ever so surely Julia’s shady past is uncovered. Of this menage a troits which is the one that will drop out, that is the question.

Director Michael Cristofer who has also written the screenplay tends to rush in with the establishing shots. He could have given it more time. Then the steamy love affair seems unduly prologned. The shift to the detective mould gives the film a fresh spurt of energy but the will-he, will-he-not tends to drag on needlessly. May be one unconsciously tries to compare with the lyrical treatment Truffaut meted out in his film and that wouldn’t be fair. As for the climax it is bit of a let-down.

Still, it is good while it lasts. At least most of the time but Angelina Jolie, daughter of Jon Midnight Cowboy Voight is excellent as the seductress who wraps her man around her fingers. Her last film Laura Croft: Tomb Raider was a non-performer as far as acting is concerned but here she picks up from where she left off histrionically as druggie Lisa Rowe in Girl, Interrupted and good though Banderas undoubtedly is he suffers by contrast. Thomas Jane as the weakest part of the love triangle is a poor third. Don’t expect too much and you’re sure to enjoy the film.

While reviewing Traffic I had mentioned Swordfish as the see-now-think-later-or-never entertainer. Not only is a bus hijacked but it is also air-lifted by a helicopter. It is part of the anything-is-possible formula which began nearly two decades ago.

It begins well with clips of 1970s action films like Dog Day Afternoon and Sugarland Express being discussed. The movie analyst is none other than John Travolta. No, not in his Saturday Night Fever mould, in his second-wind post Pulp Fiction manner. After all his only mission in life is to get hold of the drug-millions stashed away by other baddies. All he needs is a computer-hacking wizard (Hugh Jackman) who is lured into working for him. There is also a moll (Halle Beny) or there would be no dramatic relief. Director Dominic Gone in 60 Seconds Sena is at it hammer and thongs, aided by slick photography, lightning-quick editing and FX folks working overtime. It is a typical Hollywood action movie, slam-bang action, which until September 11 was America’s escapist form of entertainment. Now that fact is stranger than fiction they’ve decided to hold back the release of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Collateral Damage. But as a wag put it, "that’s being done in Afghanistan."

Home This feature was published on November 18, 2001