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1 item from 1999

Film Review: 'The Criminal' A Good Side to 'Criminal' / U.K. Palm pic from young director gets off

7 December 1999 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

to fine start before meeting an untimely end

"The Criminal" is a low-budget, film noirish crime thriller with lots of things to commend it, including impressive performances, beautiful cinematography and some fine dialogue. Where it lets itself down, though, is in the second half, when the intriguing (if hardly original) story lurches from crime chiller to conspiracy thriller and ends up in an uninspiring dead end.

"The Criminal", the first U.K. film to be funded and co-produced by Chris Blackwell's Palm Pictures, screened at the recent London Film Festival. While it's a fine calling card for many of the talents involved, theatrical prospects are probably limited because the United Kingdom is bulging with crime movies at the moment.

In an attractive titles sequence, neophyte writer-director Julian Simpson sets up the premise of an ordinary guy named J (Steven Mackintosh) who meets Sarah in a bar and takes her back to his place. When the beautiful blonde is murdered in his flat, the scene is set for that good, old-fashioned scenario of the innocent man trying to find the truth while killers and cops are hot on his trail.

The initial setup is helped by inspired use of flashbacks, which offer tantalizing clues about Sarah's background, and by the introduction of a terrific pair of bickering cops, excellently played by Bernard Hill and Holly Aird.

But as J tries to track down the killer, it becomes clear that this is no simple murder but rather a crime complicated by global conspiracies, a trained assassin and the obligatory bent copper. The story gets too convoluted for its own good, tries far too hard -- making the mistake of introducing an interesting character late in the day but quickly killing her off -- and, finally, runs out of steam.

On the plus side, Simpson the director shows a good deal of talent and makes good use of cinematographer Nic Morris (who did the impressive second-unit work on "Alien3") and editor Mark Aarons. Too much effort, however, is put into the sound editing and music, which tends to distract at times.

Mackintosh is fine as the everyman J, while comedian Eddie Izzard is impressive as the forensic scientist Hume, dressed wonderfully against type in an unfashionable brown suit and sporting a mustache.

Best of all, though, are Hill (fresh from playing the doomed captain in "Titanic") and Aird (best known in the United Kingdom for her comedy work) as the detective duo. They spark wonderfully, and the great shame is that Aird's character has to meet a sticky end halfway through the movie. Also worth a mention is intriguing work done by Natasha Little (who recently played Becky Sharp in the acclaimed TV adaptation of "Vanity Fair") as Sarah.

-- Mark Adams in London


Palm Pictures

In association with Storm Entertainment and the Christopher Johnson Co.

Credits: Producers: Christopher Johnson, Mark Aarons, David Chapman; Writer-director: Julian Simpson; Executive producers: Dan Genetti, H. Michael Heuser, Suzette Newman; Director of photography: Nic Morris; Production designer: Martyn John; Music: The Music Sculpters, Tolga Kashif, Mark Sayer Wade; Costume designer: Rosie Hackett; Editor: Mark Aarons. Cast: J: Steven Mackintosh; Hume: Eddie Izzard; Detective Walker: Bernard Hill; Detective White: Holly Aird; Sarah: Natasha Little; Mason: Yvan Attal; Noble: Barry Stearn; Barker: Justin Shevlin; Grace: Jana Carpenter. No MPAA rating. Color/stereo. Running time -- 98 minutes.


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1 item from 1999

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