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This picture that seems to have escaped the notice of the movie-going public is a stylish, murky thriller that has interesting twists and turns and good performances by Ed Harris and Madeleine Stowe. The premise of the story has been done before in several noir films of the past but Harris brings credibility to his role as a smitten cop. A crack detective who solves crimes with the best of them, Harris is a lonely man who is ripe for the picking by Stowe who is not all as she seems. The sexy brunette ranks right up there with Phyllis Deitrichson and Matty Tyler Walker as the genre's classic femme fatales. The supporting cast is good, among them are Benecio del Toro and Charles Dance in key roles. The music score is soft and sultry, very similar to John Barry's theme in "Body Heat".
When homicide detective Kyle Brodine starts seeing the wife of businessman
Rupert Monro he finds himself falling in love with her. When her
relationship gets violent with her husband he begs her to leave him, however
she doesn't but when she accidentally kills him with an illegal gun she
turns to him for help. Unable to go to the police he helps her cover it up.
However later the police suspect foul play and Kyle and his partner are put
on the case. As they investigate more evidence begins to point to Kyle and
it appears that Rachel has not been totally honest with
Proof that good noir still exists. This film never saw the inside of an UK cinema it went straight to video on release. However the plot is a good tangled web of murder, mystery and deceit. It manages to be twisty despite the fact that this sort of thing has been done many times before. The plot unfolds late and very quickly, managing to be believable and gripping.
The main reason for this is a great performance from Ed Harris. The feeling of him being sucking into something is written all over his face and the way he goes from cop in control of all the details into a hunted animal is really good. Stowe is also really good and the support cast also has quality whether it be Charles Dance or a young looking Del Toro.
Overall this may not break box office records but as a thriller it is twisty, contains plenty of good lines and has a great lead performance from Harris.
I've rented a few movies lately that have been alright but have failed to really catch my attention. This, however, was different. First of all, it's film noir, and you gotta love film noir. "Palmetto", "Body Heat", "Double Indemnity", "The Big Sleep". A good guy gets screwed by a beautiful temptress. Only, in "China Moon" it's different. I won't tell the ending or any details. But this was a very well executed film, very suspenseful. It doesn't follow any cliches and it always has new tricks and twists. Like a lot of film noir, this film features heat, wetness, the night, and cops. A lot of movies attempt film noir but don't always achieve its true spark. This film achieves it.
Ed Harris and Madeleine Stowe are underneath the temperamental "China
Moon" in this 1994 film also starring Benicio del Toro. Harris and del
Toro are Kyle Bodine and Lamar Dickey partner detectives with a Florida
police department. One night at a bar, Kyle meets Rachel Munro (Stowe)
and falls for her immediately. She's unhappily married and has photos
of her husband (Charles Dance) with another woman. He doesn't know this
at the time, and tracks her down. They start seeing one another. When
her husband winds up dead, Kyle helps her to cover it up.
Though the plot is derivative, this is a classily done film with terrific acting, sensual love scenes between the two leads, an easy pace and beautiful photography. It reminded me a little of "Body Heat." The plot won't be hard to figure out, but be prepared for a couple of twists.
Ed Harris gives a forceful performance as Kyle, and del Toro is understated as Lamar. When the camera rests on Stowe, she's flawlessly beautiful, and what clothes! She gives an effective performance and has a nice chemistry with Harris.
"China Moon" is a small, meticulously done movie with loads of talent behind it. The story has been told many times, but somehow, if it's done well, it's always good for another encore.
41. CHINA MOON (thriller, 1994) Homicide Det. Bodine (Ed Harris) is a
veteran of the force who knows the ins and outs of every crime scene.
He meets Rachel (Madeline Stowe), a beautiful woman whose sensual
charms he falls under. They begin a steamy relationship. But then he
finds out she's married to an abusive and powerful man. Sensing her
infidelity he confronts her, and in an act of self-defense she kills
him. She seeks Bodines' help. But will he bring her to justice or help
the woman he loves?
Critique: Nifty little thriller borrows from the film-noir tradition. The solid screenplay by Roy Karlson introduces many elements of the genre. There's the honest cop who falls for the habitual 'femme-fetal', and the violent husband as 'middle-man' who ends up dead. But just when you think things are headed into conventional plotting, there's a twist.
Good direction by first-timer John Bailey elicits excellent acting all around. Ed Harris gives another powerhouse performance, Madeline Stowe plays the would-be 'femme fatale' role beautifully, as well as an array of solid supporting actors including Benicio del Toro (who reminded me of James Dean in his younger days). Great ending too.
QUOTE: Kyle: "You were just fV@*!ng me weren't you?! I was loving you and you were fV#!ing me!"
Because it was made in 1994, China Moon is a neo-noir. But unlike most
neo-noirs, China Moon tells a story that harks back to some of the
classic noirs. Even the way that it is done doesn't use the modern
contrivances, or at least none are obtrusive. The story is done in an
unpretentious but very suspenseful way. Also, like most older noirs, it
runs closer to 90 minutes, whereas many neo-noirs run much longer.
I don't want to spoil the story, so I'm saying little about it. It mixes a killing, love, money, betrayal, and a frame-up. The protagonist, played by Ed Harris, is a methodical straightforward detective who is good at what he does. He has a rookie partner played by Benicio del Toro. A married couple is played by Madeleine Stowe and Charles Dance. The story is quite understandable while still involving various interesting complexities. Any fan of film noir will like this picture. I know I did.
John Bailey probably knew what he was getting into, when he read Roy
Carlson's screen play, otherwise it doesn't make much sense to go ahead
with a film that has been done better before. That said, "China Moon"
is not a total disappointment.
If you haven't seen the movie, please stop reading here.
There are a few things that indicate that Rachel wanted to use Kyle from the beginning. There are also hints that Lamar, Kyle's detective partner, is into something. How could a good detective like Kyle fall prey to the exchange of the the bullet that is extracted from Rupert Monro's body? The filmmakers take a chance in presenting a half baked pie to the viewers, many of whom are into mysteries, and think the plot will be taken at face value, when in reality, our minds are going in different directions. The fans of this genre solve the puzzle before the movie's conclusion.
That said, the movie is easy to watch. Ed Harris, makes a credible Kyle. This actor is one of the best working in movies today, and even if it's not a good picture, Mr. Harris can be counted to give an excellent performance. His detective offers a good character study of a professional man that makes a fatal judgment when he gets involved with Rachel.
Madeleine Stowe is a beautiful woman. In this movie she plays Rachel with conviction; her scenes with Ed Harris shows clearly she can hold her own against anyone. Benicio Del Toro's Lamar, as Lamar, offers an interesting performance, something we expect from him as a matter of course. Charles Dance, as the rich husband who likes to fool around, is only seen too short.
This is a movie to watch when the weather is bad outside. It will please anyone who doesn't expect too much.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"China Moon" is a steamy thriller that begins modestly with a number of
typical film noir components which lead the audience into believing
that they know what's going to follow. The reality, however, is that
the plot departs from the conventional "Double Indemnity" template and
ultimately leads to a twist which is both original and unexpected.
There's a great deal to enjoy in this story of passion, treachery and
murder including a superb performance by Ed Harris, some beautiful
visual moments and even some great blues music by the excellent Anson
Funderburgh and The Rockets.
Kyle Bodine (Ed Harris) is an ace detective who's extremely adept at examining murder scenes, deducing how the crime was committed and then identifying clues about the nature of the perpetrator. He's a decent man who's well respected by his colleagues but he's also lonely and sometimes arrogant. His powers of observation are normally exceptionally strong but he doesn't see what's coming when he meets and then gets seduced by the beautiful and mysterious Rachel Munro (Madeleine Stowe).
Rachel is married to a rich banker called Rupert (Charles Dance) who's a serial adulterer and wife beater. During a particularly heated confrontation with her husband, Rachel shoots and kills him in self defence and then persuades Kyle to assist her in disposing of the body and covering up the evidence of what has happened. Kyle carries out these tasks with his usual efficiency but problems arise when the body is discovered and his rookie partner Lamar Dickey (Benicio del Toro) discovers some clues which lead to the finger of suspicion being pointed at Kyle.
Ed Harris looks perfectly comfortable in his portrayal of Kyle's unassuming demeanour and is totally believable as he becomes passionate about Rachel and then increasingly desperate as he tries to prove his innocence. Madeleine Stowe shows the despondency which has overtaken Rachel as a consequence of suffering years of abuse in a loveless marriage but at other times it seems that her depression has made her unresponsive and difficult to read. This type of inscrutability is a classic trait of the femme fatale but Rachel doesn't fall unequivocally into that category as she is clearly a more sympathetic character than the conventional noir archetype.
Charles Dance is good at conveying just how violent and despicable Rupert is but his attempt at a southern accent is lamentable. Benicio del Toro gives an interesting performance as a detective who initially shows a number of significant deficiencies in his range of abilities but then later in the story surprisingly seems to acquire a much better grasp of the skills needed to investigate a homicide.
The visual style of this movie with its beautiful settings and wonderful shots of the lake at night contributes strongly to the overall mood and is a great credit to the work of cinematographer Willy Kurant.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Several comments on John Bailey's 'China Moon ' ( Ed Harris, Madeleine
Stowe, Charles Dance, Benicio del Toro ) make a reference to Lawrence
Kasdan's 'Body Heat ' ( William Hurt, Kathleen Turner, Richard Crenna ).
******SPOILERS AHEAD As a matter of fact, both movies depict a woman
planning the murder of her husband, and managing to set up her lover as the
scapegoat; but where William Hurt is a shady attorney willingly murdering
the villainous but rich Richard Crenna, Ed Harris is the upright cop,
agreeing against his better judgement to become an accomplice after the
murder of the even more villainous but rich too Charles Dance. And the
similarity ends there: the Kasdan film is a masterpiece, where " China Moon
" has not the halting sultriness of the 'Body Heat ' atmosphere, nor its
wonderful photography and haunting musical score, and has indeed for sole
asset its very good ( but not better than 'Body Heat's ) cast.
'China Moon's main defect is its full-of-holes plot: with the photos of her philandering husband taken by del Toro, and the testimony of two cops against Dance for attacking his wife, Stowe could have got a very very juicy divorce.. O.K. she wants all the money. But setting-up Ed Harris as the fall guy is an unusually tricky business : among others, it demands first that del Toro steals from Harris his .38 police gun and replace it by an other .38; it requires later that del Toro has in hand the 9mm murder bullet before Ed Harris does, and exchange it UNNOTICED against a .38 one fired previously from the Harris gun and sand -ingrained ( ! ), which cannot but rouse Harris's suspicion ( and he is a very good cop ); Harris could also have agreed to come clean when so offered. The plot does not explain that anonymous phones calls attract attention on Harris as the 'guilty' person because the corpse must be found in order that Stowe gets her money. And at the very end,when Harris exposes del Toro, the police is called by a witness and arrives ten seconds later ( !! ), at the very time when Ed Harris goes out, a gun in hand, and is killed without warning shots.***** but if you do not look too closely at such errors and holes, you can enjoy the acting of the four above-mentioned players,... and Madeleine Stowe's extraordinary beauty.
Happened to catch this thriller on cable yesterday night. I am not a fan
Ed Harris but I can say that he is a good actor putting up a decent
performance in this show.
It also goes to show that you do not necessary need to have awesome special effects, elaborate sets or costumes to make a movie captivating. Just a good story plot (keeping in mind that the audience are not morons or idiots) and a few good actors/actress is just enough to keep people glued to their seats.
It is really rare to find such movies lately. Really hope to see such movies that will keep people thinking what will come next, as the saying goes, its the story that counts and not blow-your-mind-but-forgot-about-it special effects or actors/actress or is that cardboards walking down the aisle with pretty clothes trying to act etc, etc.
Just intelligent story telling which people will still talked about it when they leave the threaters.
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