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2 items from 2002

25th Hour

20 December 2002 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

"25th Hour" is an unusually aimless movie from Spike Lee, a director associated with much punchier films that possess strong points of view. Here the story line is flaccid and episodic, the direction lacks vitality, and the observations are mundane. It's a tribute to Lee that he was able to assemble a top-notch cast eager to work with him, but the real work is by an audience that must labor through the misguided affair.

Edward Norton is once again brilliant in the central role; everything he does is hugely watchable. By contrast, a bunch of terrific actors -- Philip Seymour Hoffman, Barry Pepper, Rosario Dawson, Anna Paquin and Brian Cox -- struggle to make any sense of characters who drift through the protagonist's world without seeming to make much impact on him or us. The Touchstone film, released this week in Los Angeles and New York then expanding in January, is unlikely to equal, much less expand upon, Lee's usual demographics.

Probably the best thing about the film is the lensing by Rodrigo Prieto, who after "Amores Perros", "Frida" and "8 Mile" emerges clearly as a world-class cinematographer. His New York is a drab and somber city filled, though, with ex-quisite light and a sense of quiet vibrancy. The movie is palpably set in post-Sept. 11 New York. Along with overt shots of Ground Zero -- one character's apartment directly overlooks the site -- and the sign reading "You Can't Stop NYC", the film displays a dispirited yet vital city still searching for ways to cope with its wounds and grief.

None of this directly relates to the story at hand except to lend a melancholy air to what is already a downbeat tale. Norton plays Monty Brogan, a middle-class drug dealer with ties to the Russian mafia, experiencing his last 24 hours of freedom before turning himself in to serve a seven-year prison sentence. Why he still enjoys this freedom, when most if not all felons are jailed upon conviction, is never explained.

On this final day, he hooks up with people and places from his past: the high school where he played basketball; his best pals, Jacob (Hoffman), a guilt-ridden Jew who teaches English at the old school, and Slaughtery (Pepper), a hotshot bond trader full of himself; his dad (Cox), who runs a bar partially financed by his drug money; and Naturelle (Dawson), his live-in girlfriend who may or may not have turned him in to the narcs.

Monty spends most of the movie feeling sorry for himself, which is more than any audience member is likely to do. Meanwhile, Naturelle acts bewildered about what's going on in Monty's head, and his two buddies squabble constantly -- an argument that undoubtedly goes back to playground days. It is hard to discover in these fruitless encounters any reason for Monty, a smart and educated man, to have turned to drug dealing.

More dramatically cohesive at least is a subplot involving Jacob's infatuation with a 17-year-old tease (an impish Paquin) from one of his classes. Russian mob figures, especially one played by former pro footballer Tony Siragusa, are vivid caricatures but feel like they wandered in from a different movie.

The script is by David Benioff, adapted from his own novel. But the film lacks all the things critics lauded in his novel -- his tight, crisp way with dialogue, its dark humor and a portrayal of the corrupting influence of easy money.

25th HOUR

Buena Vista Pictures

Touchstone Pictures presents a 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks/Industry Entertainment/Gamut Films production

Credits: Director: Spike Lee; Screenwriter: David Benioff; Based on the novel by: David Benioff; Producers: Spike Lee, Jon Kilik, Tobey Maguire, Julie Chasman; Executive producer: Nick Wechsler; Director of photography: Rodrigo Prieto; Production designer: James Chinlund; Music: Terence Blanchard; Costume designer: Sandra Hernandez; Editor: Barry Alexander Brown. Cast: Monty Brogan: Edward Norton; Jacob Elinsky: Philip Seymour Hoffman; Francis Slaughtery: Barry Pepper; Naturelle Riviera: Rosario Dawson; Mary D'Annuzio: Anna Paquin; James Brogan: Brian Cox; Kostya Novotny: Tony Siragusa.

MPAA rating R, running time 135 minutes.


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'Darkness' lights up Spain

16 October 2002 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

MADRID -- Jaume Balaguero's thriller Darkness has displaced Pedro Almodovar's Talk to Her as the Spanish film with the highest-grossing opening weekend in its home territory so far this year, raking in about €1.16 million ($1.14 million) in its first three days of release, on 276 prints. Much anticipated because of its $12 million budget and a rare presale to Miramax, Darkness is Balaguero's second feature after 1999's multiple award-winning Los Sin Nombre (The Nameless) and his first English-language film. Talk to Her grossed $971,187 in its first weekend. The opening of Darkness, however, trailed Alejandro Amenabar's ghost story The Others -- also presold to Miramax -- which opened last year with more than $3 million. Darkness, starring Anna Paquin, Lena Olin, Iain Glen and Fele Martinez, had its world premiere Oct. 3 at the Sitges International Film Festival of Catalonia. »

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