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Barkley Michaelson is in a deep life rut. He's struggling to finish his PhD thesis when his father, the learned Eli Michaelson, wins the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. Barkley and his mother, Sarah, a renowned forensic psychiatrist, now have the ill-fortune of living with a man-eating monster whose philandering ways have gotten less and less discrete. As if Barkley's world is not bad enough, on the eve of his father receiving the Nobel, Barkley is kidnapped and the requested ransom is the $2,000,000 in Nobel prize money. Needless to say, Eli refuses to pay it and so starts a venomous tale of familial dysfunction, lust, betrayal and ultimately revenge. In the words of Michel De Montaigne, the 16th century philosopher: "There is more barbarity in eating a man alive than in eating him dead." Written by
Randall Miller & Jody Savin
In the scene where Eli and Sarah are back in their house with the reporters on their lawn, the scene pans between the characters and the mantel. On the mantel is a black and white picture of a man with a mustache which actually happens to be younger Alan Rickman from a previous movie, probably around the time of his movie, Truly Madly Deeply. The picture can be seen multiple times in this scene. See more »
After Det. Mariner questions Eli for the second time, Eli and his mother follow the detective out to his car, which is parked with its wheels partially off the asphalt. In the next shot, all of the wheels are on the asphalt. See more »
The French essayist, Michel de Montaigne, once said, "I think there is more barbarity in eating a man alive than in eating him dead." The wisdom of it. When you were a kid with an open soul, they told the world consists of good guys and bad guys. I always liked the bad guys. Scar Face over Superman.
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This movie demonstrates everything that's wrong with Hollywood.
The overall story isn't that bad; it's the execution. This movie is filled to the brim with myriad plot holes, implausible situations and dialog, lame humor and laughable attempts at poignancy. And if that's not bad enough, it's also crammed with clichéd sound effects, unrelated trendy music and an array of un-called-for camera tricks and 'cool' editing. There's so much absurd stuff here, it would take me hundreds of pages to explain it all. Almost every aspect of this film is so implausible, that right from the start I could not suspend my disbelief.
It's as if the filmmakers decided to use every cool camera movement and editing that they ever saw and shoehorn it into this movie. That, coupled with the bad music choices, make the tone of this thing jump all over the place. It's disjointed and lacks a unified feel.
Why are the characters introduced with typing across the screen? This is a pathetic cliché that goes back to espionage type movies, so why is it here? Who's documenting the case? This movie doesn't know what it wants to be. It tries desperately to be Frank Capra, Alfred Hitchcock, Spike Lee and Quentin Tarantino all rolled into one and it just doesn't work. Barkley narrates at the beginning and end of this movie. If it is supposed to be seen through Barkley's eyes, then we've been cheaply duped, because a ton of stuff has been left out that would have been shown to the audience. You can't have a character narrate and then hide what he sees and hears from the audience. It's a cheap trick.
The tip of the iceberg of plot holes and implausibilities: What is the purpose of the gardener character? He could be removed and the story wouldn't change one bit. And why was he murdered? It seems absurd that they'd kill him just to vacate the apartment. These are supposed to be brilliant people; wasn't there a less illegal, less violent way to accomplish that? And what's with linking OCD with electric cars? The filmmakers often try to make a correlation between things that don't correlate. The Pat Benitar thing was a sad attempt at making a poignant link between the brothers. And how convenient was it that he left City Hall's apartment without his shoes. No one I know has ever been in that much of a hurry. He couldn't just carry them along with his shirt? Like so much of this script it's unbelievably contrived.
If there's been four thumbs taken in the last month wouldn't it be on the news? Wouldn't everybody know about it? And, if so, why is it crucial to send a thumb, to show you mean business, when everyone knows it's probably not the kidnap victim's thumb. And how did they get the Mini-Cooper in the apartment? Where did the brothers meet and plan it all? How did they know about each other? And Eli's dialog about molecules luminescing is over-the-top sophomoric.
Thaddeus spends a significant amount of time telling us how much of a horrible person his father is. Then, instantly, he wants his father to be proud of him and he wants to follow in his footsteps. What? He wants to steal other people's work and mess around with grad students and other people's wives? And Barkley seems like a dork even after we're shown that he's some kind of evil genius. I know a heck of a lot of Phds and not one of them ever played a Gameboy. And his mother is proud that he's an evil genius, because I guess, she's kind of evil too, even though she appears to have lived a successful and upstanding life for the past 50-odd years. Another cheap trick. OK, we get that people aren't all bad or all good. What a revelation. I think I got it when I was ten years old. And just in case we didn't get the message, Barkley actually tells us that during the opening credits.
Fortunately, City Hall lit one hundred candles near her bed on the roof, just in case, she brings home Barkley, virtually a stranger, many hours later. And wouldn't it be funny if Barkley woke up in the morning and stretched, but forgot that he was naked and outdoors in bright sunlight and somebody saw him. Hilarious. If I was twelve years old again. Who's ever heard of moo-shu? I've been eating moo-shi for longer than Barkley's been alive.
And we're spoon-fed embarrassing amounts of exposition: Thaddeus chronicling the gardener's history, Eli's history, etc. And just in case we missed the fact that City hall has done something twisted, don't worry, because right after she does it, a song is played that tells us that she's a twisted girl. And Barkley tells his whole personal situation to a clerk at a café. It's ridiculous. I've never seen such bad exposition. It's just lazy writing it really insults the intelligence of the viewer.
There's the poetry reading place, where predictably, everyone's poetry is ludicrous, except, of course, City Hall's. I mean, this gag's got whiskers on it.
And what's with the twisted logic of Sarah, "I hope it's Barkley's thumb. If it's somebody else's thumb then the kidnapper is a calculating psychopath." So, by that logic, if the kidnapper cuts off Barkley's thumb, then he's a psychopath, just not a calculating one. OK, I'll be on planet earth if anybody needs me.
You can't tell what's going happen because you're not given enough information. They've stacked the deck where you can't possibly figure it out and by the end there's so many ridiculous and implausible situations that you don't care. A mystery must include all the info needed to get it. Otherwise, it's cheap trick, which is what this is.
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