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A lawyer is asked to come to the police station to clear up a few loose ends in his witness report of a foul murder. This will only take ten minutes, they say, but it turns out to be one loose end after another, and the ten minutes he is away from his speech become longer and longer... Written by
Maarten Hofman <email@example.com>
The ending doesn't work as well as it should but the idea is there and the performances carry the whole thing
In the middle of San Sebastian's Feast celebration in San Juan, tax attorney Henry Hearst is guest of honour at a fund raising event to help repair damage from a tropical storm. However, less than an hour before the event, Henry is called into the police station by friend Capt Victor Benezet to clarify some points on his statement. Henry had discovered a dead child on a local beach but the police doubt some of the things in his story. As the time ticks down, Victor comes under pressure to release Henry but at the same time his story begins to reveal lies. The situation is only made more revealing when Henry's wife comes into the station.
Everyone loves a good thriller so it was a surprise to me how quickly this film with it's heavy-weight cast managed to slip through the UK cinemas almost unnoticed. There is nothing significantly wrong with it to justify the low box office it seemed to generate, so I'm not sure why it happened. The story is set, for unknown reasons, in San Juan, a fact that is only distracting as none of the principals are Puerto Rican and their presence there is never really settled. Anyway, the film is very much a play that is carried by the two main characters. The revelations and movement of the plot is engaging and it is great fun to watch. The ending is difficult though - we are taught to expect a certain type of ending in this sort of film and it is slightly disappointing when it doesn't come.
I expected a big twist and, in a way, that happened but the fall out from it isn't well explained by the film and a lot is left for you to think about. In that respect it is difficult, again because we are not expecting that type of ending but also that it is quite hard to understand as it is very tied up in the emotions of complex characters - complexities that we having been watching because we've only been seeing them as `twists' and revelations. That said, I still enjoyed the ending and thought it was brave to be different - just a shame it was badly handled.
The cast are roundly great and are a big reason that the film remains gripping. Hackman and Freeman are great actors and having them both in the same film was enough of a draw to get me watching. The vast majority of their scenes are shared and they interact together really, really well when it comes to the dramatics. What they don't do as well is convince that they really are old friends. Jane is good but his character is far too simplistic and brash. Bellucci is better than I have seen her, but she is a little too wound up emotionally. She is very good looking and I was glad that the film didn't just trade on that, but it didn't (or couldn't) get a great deal out of her.
The director manages to add energy and style to what could have been a rather contain piece (like a play). Visually it is exciting but, looking back, it was more important to develop character than deliver a slick thriller - something he didn't do well at all. The ending is weak because it takes thought, as we have not been forced to look at the complex characters. It was Hopkins' job to make us do that but he can't manage it.
Overall this is an enjoyable film that will frustrate many with the ending. Despite being a clever and different conclusion, it doesn't really work because of the director making the wrong sort of film to suit that ending. However for the vast majority it really works and the strength of the two lead performances mean that, for all it's flaws, this is never a dull film.
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