Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews
- Category: Jacqueline Monahan
- Published on 23 November 2008
- Written by Jacqueline Monahan
Las Vegas Round The Clock - http://www.lasvegasroundtheclock.com
Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
Rowena Price (Halle Berry) uncovers secrets for a living. The investigative reporter is on the verge of exposing a powerful senator’s sexual misconduct when her story is abruptly pulled (with the help of a newspaper colleague). She quits out of moral outrage, and then takes on an independent assignment from a surprising source, childhood friend Grace (Nicki Aycox) with a taunting demeanor. Rowena is intrigued. Under the alias Katherine Poague, she infiltrates a powerful advertising firm to investigate head honcho Harrison Hill (Bruce Willis), implicated in a string of infidelities possibly leading to murder.
Rowena works with a partner, Miles, (Giovanni Ribisi) who is thoroughly obsessed with her. She is blissfully unaware of it – fending him off as if shooing away a fly, despite his darkly lustful glares and menacing posture. He all but drools for Rowena and obnoxiously invades her space, taking outrageous liberties with their fact-finding mission, even jeopardizing it to the point of putting her life in danger. Through it all, she treats him like a bratty little brother instead of a hostile work environment; so much for following clues.
Harrison Hill wears the characteristic smirk of a powerful man, used to acquiring things and people. It is only a matter of time before he will try to acquire the new temp (as if those people were not routinely treated like pop-up facial tissues -used and tossed carelessly away). It is not enough for Rowena to have brains. She must look stunning and exude a sexuality that catches the boss’s eye. Blouses must be ridiculously low cut. A quick flip through company IDs gives us an idea of how many other employees are on her lofty level of allure. Exactly none. Inane banter rams this idea home as well. Let’s not forget the several posterior shots that emphasize her shapely hips and tiny waist, required credentials for any investigative reporter.
Belladonna, the beautifully named poison, figures prominently throughout the film. Poured into the eyes, it is the deadly murder weapon of choice for the killer. Hill’s wife, an infertile Amazon who knows about her playboy husband, is obsessed with photographs of the interior of the eye, blow up images that are displayed throughout her husband’s agency. Hill has a tendency of impregnating everyone but his wife – how to hide the evidence? Giovanni only has eyes for Rowena and will go to any length to “help her out.” So many suspects lurk in the light and shadows of the story. Motives abound and misanthropic opportunities are plentiful. Rowena’s path forks so many times on her way to finding the murderer that it ends up on a street called, yeah, Right.
Miles is alternately smart, obsessed, sinister, and creepy; sometimes sympathetic and sometimes just pathetic. He pines for Rowena, has a shrine for Rowena. Will she ever know? Or care? Giovanni Ribisi creates a complex character that we want to champion while simultaneously avoid. To his credit, Ribisi is one of the most believable characters in the film, but cannot carry it by himself.
A large portion of screen time is taken up with viewing a computer screen, where instant messaging is typed (and spoken, for those of us who are functionally illiterate). It’s all part of the web of deception that wraps around Rowena and her quest for justice. Is she communicating with Harrison Hill or a hacker? With Miles overseeing all of the technical aspects of the sting, what could go wrong?
Rowena has a secret of her own that goes back decades and plucks her insecurities like harp strings: a bad childhood, a good mother, a secret that begets another, bigger secret. Rowena dreams about and all but relives these events on a daily basis.
Dark motives pile up and are attributed to first one character, then another, in a dizzying zigzag that morphs wildly into unexpected territory. The blinded-by-beauty crowd seemed to swallow every quirk, while those who expected brainy maneuverings were handed a flurry of improbabilities for shock value masquerading as suspense.
Halle Berry, eye candy as always, seems to be a willing participant in her objectification. Intelligence should be Rowena’s calling card, not reliance on a superficial illusion that will fade some day. What then, demotion to the obituary section of the newspaper? Smart women deserve better.
Director James Foley (Glengarry Glen Ross) has created a sharp-looking film that starts out promisingly enough, and then descends quickly into clichés and implausible circumstances.
Unfortunately, there are some who believe that any kind of twist makes a film good. Whether everyone will buy the convoluted premise is another matter.
Perhaps some will be surprised, impressed even; many more will groan and roll their eyes, wondering if there isn’t something to that belladonna as an alternative to this viewing.