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This World, Then the Fireworks
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23 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

Brilliant Period Piece

Author: FlickJunkie-2 from Atlanta, GA
1 April 2000

This is not a film for everyone. It is dark, sultry, twisted and self indulgent, and that doesn’t have mass appeal nowadays unless Quentin Tarantino is directing and people are shooting each other in the face. It is, however, a terrific piece of filmmaking and as a fifties period piece it is surpassed only by films actually made in the fifties.

It is the story of brother and sister twins who were traumatized as children and turn out quite screwed up as adults. There is the ever present hint of incest looming in their relationship and they are both prone to lascivious escapades. The story serves up a slice of their lustfully demented lives together.

You almost have to be over 50 to appreciate this movie or be someone who likes old black and white films from that era. Director Michael Oblowitz has recreated not just the look, but the feel of the period. Tom Priestly, who went on to be the cinematographer on “The Thomas Crown Affair” did a fantastic job with filters and lighting to give the film an authentic fifties feel. The sets, props, costumes and music were all meticulously accurate. The use of a first person narrative (the story was narrated by Marty [Billy Zane]) was a very popular device in 40’s and 50’s films (think Humphrey Bogart).

Unfortunately, the film was more form than substance since the story was a just meandering film noir libido ride. Still, for fifties nostalgia buffs, this is a treat.

Gina Gershon was fabulous as Carol. She was sexy, seductive, and lewd while simultaneously being vulnerable and fragile. I can’t remember seeing her in a role better suited to her talents, nor can I remember her giving a better performance. Billy Zane was really wrong for this part. His acting was fine, but it failed to capture the character considering the context of the period. Men of this period were known for their strength and impassive response to almost everything. Naturally this would always lead to a great scene marked by a fit of anger somewhere in the film as the pressure became too great for him to bear. Zane was too mercurial in his portrayal of this character. He had the male sex thing down, but he came across as shrill and defensive in a lot of scenes, very un-fifties.

Sheryl Lee gave a terrific performance as Lois, the sex crazed lady cop who becomes obsessed with Marty. We may never hear from her again, but for one film she grabbed the spotlight and ran with it. She was so desperately needy and shameless in her appetite for Marty that it seemed she couldn’t live unless she was breathing the air he just exhaled.

I gave this film a 7/10. It is a 10 as far as filmmaking and period authenticity and the story was about a 5. If you like film noir, unabashed lust and the fifties, this movie is a must see.

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9 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

An aboveboard elucidation of a lesser-known Jim Thompson opus

Author: EyeAskance from fabulous Las Vega$!
28 April 2003

I'm a long-time fan of Jim Thompson, and I very much enjoyed THIS WORLD, THEN THE FIREWORKS, a flawed but gritty little project which manages to capture Thompson's hard-edged stylistic virtuosity quite nicely. Regardless, I wouldn't open-handedly recommend it to anyone who's not a foaming-at-the-mouth noir fanatic, as the film's tone of pervasive hopelessness will likely prove unappealing to many. As well, much of the violence is purblindly direct and quite potent.

The lurid tale at hand concerns a dejected Chicago news reporter returning to the rustic environs of his youth(and to the sister he once loved in a rather unwholesome way), and finding that the passing of years has reduced the town to a squalid ragdump, rife with sordid lives and ubiquitary misery. Relentlessly dark and subtly sardonic ultra-noir, with even the most likable characters suppressing some degree of unscrupulous shadiness. Not a joyful diversion, but effective, and surprisingly sincere in its illustration of the source material.


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12 out of 17 people found the following review useful:


Author: pollystark from United Kingdom
21 September 2005

I really can't understand why this film has such a poor rating. I rented it totally randomly years ago and was absolutely entranced. It's about good people who do bad things, and bad people who do good things, and about the moral values of society. It has a wonderful visual style, portrays an amazingly consistent world.

The whole film has an air of sadness pervading it that sticks with me five years on.

Difficult viewing, but wonderful.

If you see this for rent or cheap purchase anywhere, grab it and see one of the most individual and haunting films ever.

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9 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

A shamefully underrated DARK COMEDY.

Author: Rebecca Fransway ( from United States
21 February 2005

This is a great film, and should be more widely available. Why, oh why isn't it out in DVD? The writer of the original story is Jim Thompson. The film is one of the blackest of dark comedies, and so, unfortunately, is under appreciated by mainstream viewers and even critics. If you could see the humor in "The Grifters" or if you like your humor darker than "To Die For," you must get "This World, Then the Fireworks" in video ASAP. The leading role is made for Billy Zane, and features the finest performance I've ever seen from him. Don't miss this unforgettable scene: someone wonders why he (Billy Zane) would marry a deformed woman when he can have a beautiful one, and he becomes absolutely enraged. Also wonderful are Gina Gershon as the sister, and Rue McClanahan as mother of the wicked siblings.

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11 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Great Neo-Noir

Author: forecastmazy from fairield, ct
9 June 2003

Come on, Billy Zane is amazing in this film. If for anything, it's worth watching to see his performance. I watched this film after standing at a Bright Eyes concert for hours, I was tired but just let it go on because it kept my attention, STOOD WITH ME, much more than many modern day pop. films do. It really is a tribute to Film-Noir more than anything. The angles and shots at times remind me of Hitchcock, but mostly it stays within the bounds of Noir. It's like the director watched A & E and Nick at Night forever. If you watched Film-Noir you know the plot isn't always explained with your hand held like many films are for nowadays people. Film Noir was slick and cool. It's not a perfect film but it's a damn good one! Worth a watch, don't judge this film by its cover, actually don't even look at the cover at all. The cover sucks, its worthless, the film itself, is great.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Wretched ........

Author: merklekranz from United States
31 January 2014

Zero entertainment value would be the best way to describe this wretched film. Billy Zane is a strutting ass, so pompous and unlikable that you will immediately be disgusted. His religious rants make no sense as does the entire movie. Equally unlikable is his twin sister, Gina Gershon, who portrays a street trollop with no scruples. Both are so stuck on themselves and each other that they are two of the most boorish characters I've ever seen on the screen. Constant voice overs only add to the train wreck of a script, which is basically unwatchable. This movie is a real turn off, and most definitely should be avoided. - MERK

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:


Author: drspecter from Louisville
24 May 2002

Billy Zane is perfect as the sociopathic Marty, and his voice-over narration IS the Jim Thompson novella. This World is simultaniously an overblown parody and a loving homage to not only Thompson, but fifties hardboiled thrillers in general. Gritty touches of realism mix with a nostalgiac 50s pastiche and stylized performances and camera work. Sure to be over the heads of most modern viewers (see above review) but if you love film noir, and especially the pulp novels that helped spawn it, this film is beautiful, hillarious, and genuinely misanthropic. All the performances are very accurate to the way the characters acted in the novella. Shot like a combination of a moving Edward Hopper painting and an Italian Giallo thriller. HIGHLY recommended!

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9 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Very weird movie.

Author: Psyche471 from United States
27 September 2005

If you like movies that are warped, dysfunctional, and twisted and you like looking at beautiful people, then this movie is for you. It is a touching tale of sibling love. Billy Zane, Gina Gershon & Sheryl Lee play the main characters and as usual are great in this film. There is a lot of subtlety in the ways that each of the characters develop, not only in the dialog but also in the use of lighting and camera angles. For me, I found it to be a very intriguing movie; I had no idea where it was headed. It is not what I would consider an action type movie but is instead a more character driven movie. You really need to pay attention to the little things going on to fully appreciate how great this movie is. I loved this movie and hope that more folks will watch it.

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11 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

I love this movie.....

Author: hopelex1 from United States
7 January 2006

I love everything about this movie. To be low budget and not very well known, I believe that this is one of the best movies I've ever seen. Everything from the use of color, plot, acting, narration, music, etc. It's tremendous!

Billy Zane proved yet again that he has talent. I consider this one of his better movies and severely underrated.

I would highly recommend this to anyone who isn't just a Billy Zane fan, but someone who appreciate good movies. It'll keep you on the edge of your seat. Definitely worth renting, purchasing or viewing on one of the cable channels. I give it two thumbs up.

Hooray for This World, Then The Fireworks!!

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

In rapt surprise at rating

Author: david.i.rudel from Hanover, NH
14 August 2000

How in the world can you guys not like this film. I consider this film one of my top 10, mostly because the characterization of Billy Zane's character may be the best in any movie ever. This movies has almost everything you want: Original Awesome Characterization (especially with Zane's Character) Sufficiently well written and acted

Maybe this movie isn't what the mainstream wants, but it is still an excellent flick.

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