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Buddha has the power to change the nature of a person into their opposite. He uses this power only when the world is in danger. When a villain obtains plans that could be used for peace or war, Buddha turns him into a good guy. Now what?
19 years after President Timothy Keegan was assassinated, his brother Nick discovers a dying man claiming to have been the gunman. While trying to avoid his wealthy and domineering father's attempts to control his actions, Nick follows the clues that have been handed to him. As he progresses, it becomes increasingly difficult to discern the real trails from the dead ends, and increasing dangerous as unknown parties try to stop Nick from uncovering the truth. Written by
Jean-Marc Rocher <firstname.lastname@example.org>
William Richert's "Winter Kills" is a strange, offbeat film, to say the least. It begins seriously, but then changes tones and becomes a searing black comedy. I felt a little guilty about enjoying the film so much, considering that it's about a political assassination cover-up.
But, then I changed my mind. After all, this, "Prizzi's Honor" and the great "The Manchurian Candidate" were all based on novels written by the same author, Richard Condon. The one thing these films all have in common are that they are savage comedies about serious subjects. So perhaps that was the tone Condon was going for. The humor will escape some, but those who can appreciate dark humor will love it.
The film also contains a gallery of great performances by top talent. The cast includes Jeff Bridges, John Huston (a great actor as well as a great writer and great director), Anthony Perkins, Sterling Hayden, Richard Boone, Eli Wallach and in a cameo, Elizabeth Taylor. They make the most of this material and play it very straight. This is the key to the film's success. If they had played it slyly, it may not have worked as well.
But it's not fair to praise the cast only. William Richert also deserves praise for maintaining such uneven shifts between tones and for telling such a potentially confusing storyline with style and grace. It's such a solid script and such strong direction that he should have received Oscar nods for his work.
"Winter Kills" exists in two versions. In 1980, Magnetic Video briefly released the theatrical cut, which was edited to deemphasize the comedy and rush-released by Avco Embassy. However, in 1983, Richert was given the green light to re-edit his film. This version, with the original ending restored and many of the comic moments restored, was released by Embassy Home Entertainment in 1984.
My rating applies to the 1983 re-edit, although I would really like to see the original 1979 edit. If anyone out there has a copy of the 1980 Magnetic Video release, e-mail me.
**** out of 4 stars (1983 re-edit)
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