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Likable actors but weak story and amateurish storytelling
With Rear Window back in the news following the release of the new movie Disturbia, and with Courtney Cox (Friends) and Paul Guilfoyle (CSI) in the cast (albeit in bit parts), maybe the 1990 TV movie Curiosity Kills will come to someone's attention. The actors -- C. Thomas Howell, Rae Dawn Chong, Jeff Fahey, Cox, and Guilfoyle -- are likable. There is some slight definition to their characters and setting (least so with Fahey's character, who turns on a dime from ditzy to maniacal). The main problem is the film's amateurish, thin, far-fetched story and story-telling. It has all the elements of a bad, low-budget cable TV "thriller." Despite how it is marketed, it is silly to say this movie has anything in common with Rear Window. Although I try not to give away plots in reviews, this one is so simplistic and obvious that it makes it hard. So be forewarned.
The movie opens with a violent scene (with cheap, unconvincing special effects) in which all of the police guards of a drug informant are shot to death, only to have the informant himself kill the hit-man. The scene then shifts to a run-down, warehouse-looking apartment building in a bad neighborhood in which Howell, a starving-artist photographer, works as the janitor for sleazy, quick-buck absentee landlord Guilfoyle, who appears briefly in the movie, wearing a leather jacket and driving a motorcycle. Howell's neighbor, Chong, is a starving-artist sculptor. Although the film never explains it, he has a girlfriend (Cox) who is a successful model and wants him to switch to commercial photography and move with her to a fancy condo in Malibu. The very next day after an old, failed, drunk painter who is another friend and neighbor of Howell's is found dead in his apartment in a tub full of blood, a vacuous-looking "actor" (Fahey) arrives to take the place.
From then on, Howell, who already doubts the old artist's "suicide," picks up tidbits that supposedly make him suspicious of the actor, enlists Chong in spying on him, and blows off Cox's efforts to get him to look at the condo and go to parties with her plastic friends. From time to time, a few lines from a TV news program can be heard playing in the background at Howell's apartment, reporting that the informant has been moved to a new safehouse and that the drug kingpin's trial is fast approaching. This obvious gimmick passes for subtlety in the film.
The movie takes a very long time to reach completely predictable, anticlimactic conclusions -- both the main crime plot and the romantic subplot. And it has nothing interesting to say along the way. Rather than suspenseful, the film can be best described as trying and annoying. By the time it gets to the sinister tag-lines, "Cat, that's a funny name. How many lives do you have?" and "Didn't anybody ever tell you, curiosity kills?", it has long been clear that the threadbare movie has nothing interesting or dramatic to offer.
The movie also depends on ludicrous plot gimmicks. For example, the "actor" leaves the audio feed from a bug he has somehow planted in the new "safe-house" apartment across the street blaring in his own apartment while he is away, which, of course, Howell and Chong overhear (and at first misunderstand, further dragging out the proceedings). We are supposed to believe that a 911 call will be directly routed to a corrupt cop. On top of that, somehow the non-stop hacking cough that the bad cop has in every conversation with the hit man and that is overheard by Howell is absent throughout his entire early conversations with Howell. We are also supposed to believe that even after a massacre of its own men who were protecting the informant and his survival by sheer luck, the police would move the informant to a new building without checking out the residents of a building with a direct line of fire into the informant's apartment. And the police would let the informant sit in plain view in front of an uncovered window. And they would be fooled into opening the door by a sloppy impersonation.
After unprevented carnage all around, we are supposed to find a conclusion satisfying in which Howell and Chong sit together in the sunshine on a couch on the edge of the roof. They exchange a few light lines about "That was quite an adventure we had," "Well, we did the best we could," "I can't leave this building," "Or your neighbor," and end up kissing. The only redeeming feature of the film is that Howell and Chong, playing their earnest young characters, are pleasant to watch, and, believe it or not, the ending is actually kind of sweet. But otherwise the movie is a flimsy, boring, amateurish waste of time.
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