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gridoon31 December 2000
Underrated, gripping thriller was a big box-office failure but it deserves a second chance on home video. Tightly plotted (there's always something happening, but the complications never get too confusing) and smoothly directed, it's a movie that knows how to keep you absorbed, even though its nihilistic ending is slightly cliched. Give it a try. (***)
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A great cast boosts an average thriller
NewEnglandPat20 August 2005
Decent thriller has a basic story of double-dealing partners with different agendas and bribery of a judge with a gambling problem. Ellen Barkin, Laurence Fishburne and Frank Langella are the principals involved in an organization that specializes in blackmail and bribery schemes, with double crosses thrown in for good measure. A key element in the picture is the offer of a bribe to a judge for his vote in a controversial court case, with the predictable drama and mystery following thereafter. The film also has wild sex scenes that are intended to add spice to a complicated mystery involving shadowy CIA and espionage figures. Gia Carides has a key supporting role as the judge's mistress who later acts out her part of a woman bent on payback. Remainder of the cast is okay and the tech credits are fine.
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Unanswered questions
jotix10020 May 2004
I saw the film when it was first released. Recently it showed up on cable and decided to take a second look. As it was my impression then, I still think this elegant thriller could have used a more logical plot because there are many questions that even a second glance doesn't answer.

The film owes a great deal to the stylish production it was given by director Damian Harris and his team. The Vancouver location doesn't take away from Seattle, where it's supposed to take place. The excellent cinematography of Jack N. Green adds dimension to the movie.

Laurence Fishburne, as the cool Nelson Crowe, is a major asset to the picture. So is Ellen Barkin, an actress that is always good to watch and is sadly missed from the screen, as she hasn't made a film in years. Frank Langella, Michael Beach, and above all, Gia Carides, made tremendous contribution to the film.
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corporate conspiracy
RanchoTuVu13 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
It's not the company you keep but the one you work for at issue here in this taut film about an ex-CIA agent who goes to work for a company that specializes in helping their corporate clients get the upper hand in any and all situations by any means necessary, but especially blackmail, as the central plot revolves around soborning a judge who has severely compromised his integrity by mounting up impressive gambling debts and extra-marital infidelity. Ellen Barkin plays the devious (bad) company recruiter who signs on ex agent Laurence Fishbourne whose 140 IQ proves no match for her physical talents. By bribing the compromised judge (David Ogden Stiers) they will rescue their client Walter Curl (Spalding Grey) from a lawsuit that claims that his company dumped cancer causing pollutants. Though the judge is a gambling philanderer, he's in nobody's pocket, and thus, after taking the bribe, votes his conscience on the case in question, and then opts out after sending his girlfriend (Gia Carides) to the Bahamas with the money. Meanwhile Barkin maneuvers Fishbourne through sex into killing company head Frank Langella, showing that IQ comes in a distant second to sex appeal. Nobody (except maybe Carides and Stiers, and to a certain extent Fishbourne) is going to win much sympathy from the audience, but the story stays on task all the way through, and the observations it casts on corportate behavior are not so far out.
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Entertaining intrigue with Ellen Barkin and Laurence Fishburne
psagray16 September 2012
Nelson Crowe (Laurence Fishburne) is a CIA agent disgraced by the disappearance of a shipment of $ 50,000 in gold. Blackmailed him to enter into a joint industrial espionage, Grimes organization, in order to extort money from important posts. However, gradually realizes that he could gain control of the company if it were proposed.

In this film there is a lot of intrigue, and calculatedly items appear balanced each other, and with good quality, well located also on an interesting script that gets a little predictable end,

Very large falls in topics regarding money, power ... but even great films also happens the same, and yet they are very good and very famous.

Highlight cast Ellen Barkin, Laurence Fishburne and a decent performance. The characters are psychologically well maintained and much better if they get to know in detail throughout the film. When this is achieved, moreover, all you do then it should fit perfectly with what we see in them. But all this could not be achieved with a good result, and even less in the current black film, no rough use but not exaggerated violence, sex and realism for more action scenes.
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An intricate and fascinating thriller
contronatura21 February 2000
If you want your films to have sympathetic characters, you probably shouldn't go near this one. This is a very tough and cynical thriller, one that has no good guys, only a whole lotta bad guys and a couple of not quite as bad guys. But that's what I enjoyed about this film. It was great to see the plot unfold in unexpected ways, and to see these characters mess with one another, motivated only by greed, lust, and fear. Another aspect is the film's sleek and cold style. From the wardrobes to the apartments these characters occupy, the film is pretty stylin'. And the acting is very good. Laurence Fishburne is excellent as the amoral Crowe, Frank Langella is elegantly nasty as Grimes, and Michael Beach has a deceptively quiet role as one of Fishburne's "co-workers". A very dark film that resolves itself quite nicely in the end, and well worth seeing. But if you need a good guy to root for, this isn't the film to check out.
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A doctorate in cool style and wicked amorality!!
kaaria131 May 2005
This movie is proof-positive that everything is not for everyone,and in this case,that is unfortunate.The criticisms leveled at this film usually mention its 'slow pace' or its 'simplistic writing',as if every film needs to be directed by John Woo or written by David Mamet.I enjoyed it tremendously because it spit in the face of the usual textbook narrative themes found in nearly every movie made before or since.It champions its amoral characters,treating them like golden gods and giving them plenty of room to play.When you've found a film where the most sympathetic character is someone's conniving mistress,it is cause for much celebration! These characters are not just amoral,they are deliciously amoral and quite nonchalant about it!

I love the degree of sophistication that each character possesses,treating each other as petty contrivances standing in the way of their decidedly selfish goals.They absolutely reek of elegance.Even their conflicts are handled in a gentlemanly manner,like being slapped with a silk glove instead of the customary right cross or knee to the groin.The bullets flying about even seem to adhere to some sort of proper etiquette!The characters even refuse to die wearing anything off the rack!

This film is more about gracious duels than cacophonous shoot-outs and car chases.It is,quite simply,a film for the sophisticate.The person who admires the cool detachment of Hannibal Lecter(minus his dietary proclivities),or the person who has an especially warm spot for humorous lines that only aspire to deliver a wicked grin instead of a hearty guffaw.This movie fully realizes that most of its characters are unapologetic elitists,and it applauds them.Nowhere is this more clear than in the character portrayed by Daniel Hugh Kelly.His elegantly evil performance is so deliciously smarmy that it was obviously created for the sole purpose of providing that wicked grin that I spoke of before.

If you consider yourself more trip-hop than hip-hop,more Oscar De La Renta than Old Navy,more Paris in the spring than Peoria in the summer,then this is the film for you!
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Cool Movie
hepasto21 July 2002
I think it's a cool movie, really brings out the characteristic of different characters.

Nelson Crowe is the control freak and the killer, great acting by Laurence Fishburne. These people are simply doing whatever they have to do, but not want to. They're all in massive pressure and you can feel it--thanks for the brilliant acting. The pressure is pushing everyone crazy and changing them. I think the best part of the movie is where Nelson pushes Margaret onto the table when she tries to fight back, and say "you're the angel I dreamed of". What a great social engineer! While in the last part, she simply had enough of his bullshit and couldn't take it no more. (as I said before, Nelson is the control freak)

When Margarent killed the old guy, there was a moment where she was emotionally stunned, but she didn't want to show it before Nelson and they still had business to do.

While the plot seems strange, and could be changed abit, it's still a great see would recommend anyone to see it. There are simply too much things in this film to mention. Be warned though the ending is quite disturbing some people might not like it.
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Strange Experience
jmorrison-219 July 2002
Interesting, but oddly emotionless movie about corporate covert operatives. You can't quite get a handle on the characters, and the dialog is strangely void of real, personal interaction. At times, it's almost like listening to robots talk. The only real emoting is done by Ellen Barkin. It's hard to get a handle on her character; one minute she's coldly sneering at somebody, the next she's got neediness radiating from her eyes.

Frank Langella plays the only seemingly decent human being in the whole bunch, even though he runs a covert company, which works at corporate espionage; bringing to bear any disgusting technique which will benefit his client's bottom line.

Laurence Fishburne is very good in this as a coldly calculating operative. He oozes cool and menace as a ruthless agent, who will do whatever it takes to get the job done.

Very interesting movie to watch, but these are people I hope to never come across.
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whpratt113 December 2002
Ellen Barkin and Laurence Fishburne performed wonderful acting skills, their love scenes were electricity, and the plot kept me on the edge of my seat. Barkin performed her own Basic Instinct with Frank Langella who did his best to burn up the screen, no more vampire roles for him. If you like romance and warmth, view this film.
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Better Look a Little Closer
deerra15 December 2004
I guess most of you missed the sex scene in the movie since no one has mentioned it. You know, the one on the patio. As Ellen straddles Lawrence, look real close and you'll see that she doesn't have any panties on. That's right. No panties on the lady. Then notice the surprised look on the face of Lawrence as they begin to have sex. A look of surprise and then a smile as he looks at her.

Now, you decide whether the sex was real or they were acting. When I first saw this scene, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. No doubt in my mind as to what happened. Don't believe me? Rent the tape and grab your remote and hit the pause button as she settles down on top of him.
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A good story, good acting, but a bit slow
exiter30 April 2006
I rented this because it was written by Ross Thomas, and I'm a huge fan of his novels. I wanted to see how his ideas were put on the screen. The story line and plot twists are very Thomas, but the characters seemed a little one-dimensional. He is great at building characters in his novels, but there just isn't enough time to do that in a movie. I needed to see vulnerability in each character, when all that was given was cold calculation (which even the hardest CIA agent is NOT).

The sex scenes seemed forced, and I bet that they weren't in the original script. Thomas doesn't need to use sex to relate characters to each other, but it's a quick 'gimmie' for the film.

I recommend this movie to any Ross Thomas fan, especially given that it was probably the last thing he wrote before he died. Otherwise, watch it if you're into mystery, but know that it's not very thrilling, and can move slowly at times.
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Stylized Intrigue.
Robert J. Maxwell23 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Lawrence Fishburn is an ex agent of the CIA or whatever the company is called in this story -- the IRT, the BMT, or the IND. His skills are needed however by Frank Langella, who runs an industrial espionage outfit, aided in more ways than one by an agreeably coiffed and precisely groomed Ellen Barkin. There is a bit of wet work involved and nobody trusts anyone else except that the boss, Langella, trusts his chief of staff, Barkin. who later will aid in Langella's murder for the sake of power and pelf. The sexual scenes are a bit graphic and ignores racial sensibilities.

The plot isn't anything special but two features of the movie are worth noting. First, the performances on the part of all the principles is just fine. Ellen Barkin is a surprise as a suave and elegant femme fatale. Fishburn is slow and considerate. (This is not an action movie.) And Frank Langella is outstanding in whatever role he takes on.

The second admirable element is the stylization of both the sets and the dialog. It's not overdone, not inaccessible, but not entirely realistic either. It's done just enough, like a classic cheese soufflé.

It presents a pretty lousy picture of humankind, Schopenhaueresque, but -- well.
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Once you are in it, there is no going back ... or?
Openize1 February 1999
To be honest; this is one of those movies that you can miss. It's entertaining, not bad acting. Highly on the marketing though. "A tough movie needs to have violence, sex and lots of situations where the bad guy is a good guy?" Is that true? This movie gives you an interesting cast, a nice theme but leaves you with a non-content feeling. It's ok, but there is something about it that makes it quite unnecessary ...
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Decent Movie- Silly Reviews (Spoilers)
wraith80821 October 2003
Warning: Spoilers
The movie was decently laid out and plotted- Larry Fishburne was just too cool in the whole movie. It wasn't the best movie, but for some underhanded dirty dealing showing the training of the CIA in the best light of conspiracy theorists, it was pretty effective.

Note that a *whole* lot of people reviewing the movie apparently were not paying attention during the climax... the rest contains spoilers that explain it...

spoiler. spoiler. spoiler. spoiler.

In the finale, the silly woman who had gone to get revenge shoots *with her eyes closed* and empties the gun she had taken, hitting *nothing*. Thus the outgunning that people talk about, or ellen barkin getting taken out with rounds to the belly are hogwash. In the tradition of Prizzi's Honor, Barkin and Fishburne stalk through this attempting to kill each other. Barkin takes Fishburne in the head, and he shoots her in the heart at the exact same time. Only when the shooting stops and the woman opens her eyes does she see them lying dead... her gun having hit *noone*.
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so very cool
SnoopyStyle14 May 2015
Nelson Crowe (Laurence Fishburne) is a CIA operative who was downsized after a dispute over a missing bribe of $50k in gold. Vic Grimes (Frank Langella) hires him for his company "The Toolshed" which blackmails and bribes for their corporate clients. Grimes and Margaret Wells (Ellen Barkin) are working to bribe State Supreme Court Judge Beach for their client Walter Curl. Wells comes to Crowe with a scheme to take over The Toolshed from Crowe.

It's a lot of noir moody style. There is not much attention paid to provide any rooting interesting for the characters. It's a lot of cold distant characters and loads of dark hard-boiled cool style. It's so cool that there is no heat in it even with the sizzling Barkin. There is not enough excitement or tension. These are great actors and they almost make this work. The schemes, blackmail, brides and double-cross do get to be questionable. The problem is that I stop caring about halfway through.
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An OK drama/thriller that really needed to feel tighter and have better dialogue
bob the moo16 November 2004
Thrown out of the CIA for be suspected of stealing gold that he denies stealing, Nelson Crowe finds himself a former spook looking for work in the private sector. This brings him to the attention of an organisation run by Vic Grimes, one that excels in blackmail and corruption for a fee. Recruited by Margaret Wells, Crowe soon finds himself in deep and almost immediately winning the trust of Wells. She repays this trust by offering him joint control of the Toolshed – in return for murdering Grimes. Meanwhile Crowe reports back to the CIA that the first stage of his infiltration has been successful but the CIA have other ideas of how his mission will end; meanwhile the word 'trust' loses any meaning it may have once had as the various sides jostle to come out on top.

The concept of a thriller involving CIA operatives and shady goings on combined with the question 'who can you trust?' will be nothing new to anybody and, for this reason, this film doesn't really do anything wrong but doesn't do anything special either. The plot is full of twists and turns but none of them are really surprisingly or even that interesting; meanwhile the 'thriller' aspect of the film never really gets up to speed and a big problem with it is the delivery. The story is a rather plodding drama at times and it could have done with being a lot slicker – dark but slick. Without many thrills the plot sags easily and the audience may feel almost bored at times; considering the stakes are murder, corruption and betrayal it is a surprising that it is so flat. The dialogue also suffers from being a bit flat; contrast it with the sparkling dialogue of David Mamet (in Spartan for example) and this just feels clunky and lacking in effort.

Of course having a great cast helps to counteract that but there is only so much that they can do at times but they still manage to have a good presence and add to the material. Barkin is sexy, manipulative, needy and cold all by turns – it is a role she can do very well and she rises above the material here. The rest of the leads rely on presence more than performance but they mostly succeed. Fishburne is always interesting and he excels at tough and cool, making a good lead. Langella is cool professionalism and suits his character well. Beach is good; Stiers is a well-known face and fits his minor role well while Spalding Gray is a rather sad reminder of his suicide but he is very good in his character. Of course it is Barkin and Fishburne that dominate the film and both are pretty strong, actually making up for wider delivery problems and making the material feel better than it is.

Overall this is nothing special but it does enough to be worth watching once. The cast provide strong performances with good screen presences all round but the delivery is roundly flat and never gets as tight or thrilling as other films in the genre effortlessly manage. The plot is old news and the dialogue feels flat and lacking in imagination and effort, rather taking the life out of the film and making it feel a lot more workmanlike than the names in the cast list would suggest it could be.
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Just keep right on going.
nonconformist15 November 2004
I won't bore you with the plot. Except to say it's not any more believable than the acting. Most of the cast seemed to be capable of acting but the juvenile script and direction make it a waste of time. This movie sucks on so many different levels it never had a chance. I was almost embarrassed to watch it. The way you would be embarrassed to see a friend make a fool of himself when he was drunk. Like seeing someone at a very low point in his or her life. After watching it I had to look up what Ebert said about it and marvel at the fact he liked it. Most movies these days are awful. I guess if you're movie reviewer you can't write bad reviews on everything. At the end I thought it might have a twist to save it somewhat. But it turned out the end was just as bad as the rest of it
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A waste of Ellen Barkin
vyto342 March 2003
Warning: Spoilers
[Possible spoilers]

Ellen Barkin is one of the most radiantly sexy women that Hollywood has seen (but has not always used well!). This film, unfortunately, is another example where she is not used well. The production designer did a superb job, and costumes, apartments, offices, and outdoors scenes are strikingly gorgeous. But the scriptwriter evidently put in no effort into this production. The plot concerns a chemical company sued for causing pollution-related injuries, yet evidently they were so naive as to not carry liability insurance. A person who has never used a gun before outguns two ex-CIA operatives. A corrupt Washington State judge is a character out of some 19th century morality play. The film is set in Seattle but filmed in Vancouver. It was deemed sufficient to put up a "Seattle Hot Dogs" stand to create that illusion...fat chance.

The "romance" between Barkin and Fishburne is a joke--they seem to share as much in common as fish and fowl. In addition, Barkin does not get to show any skin in her sex scenes in this prudish movie. For that matter, I'm not even sure these scenes were not optical overlays--there is that little interaction between characters. But the basic problem is that there are no sympathetic characters, nor even any good guys that later go bad. Everyone is just triple-crossing everyone else. Why should we care?

Go see Siesta, Big Easy, Sea of Love, or Mercy to see Barkin in good roles, instead.
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It's About Love !
elshikh428 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Don't let its outwards fool you. It's not a pure thriller. It is one biting movie about love and trust in modern times, yet through the shape of a thriller. Scriptwriter (Ross Thomas) made a world of betrayal, where everybody scheming everybody dirtily and endlessly. And the survivor could be the one who loves honestly for love, the one who's immaculate and ready to face !

Perhaps, the end would be disappointing; it even may turn the whole thing into pointless movie. However, it got to end the 2 malicious worldly-wise leads by the hand of inexperienced idiot who closes her eyes while shooting guns, all for making the deep bitter paradox, and for the sake of assuring how a couple like this would one way or another end each other, and how the true lover can win at last (even forcedly!), especially with this easy naive solution of random festival of killing, where the bad guys go to hell, and the kind one hits the jackpot, and wins the revenge (How poetic, and fabricated, this justice was!). Not to mention that it didn't care about the rest of the characters' fates, which ultimately stamped it with the "deficient" mark, and it is.

Despite that, it managed somehow to embody the concept of (Bad Company) whereas it's not a "bad intelligence", no, it's more like "evil association" that must eat and eat till it eats itself in the end. The movie's title got its double meaning already, but the movie itself wasn't perfectly satisfying in the both lines, expressly the superficial one, so that's where all the bad feeling about the movie may come from.

Director (Damian Harris) filled it with stylish style. Everything was beautiful and anesthetically colorful. The image was so soft, the cinematography and the editing were always smooth, the clothes seemed sharp, even the smallest details were fine. Something to attract, bewitch, and make the irony with all the putrefaction within; where nothing is filthy but the whole moralities. I loved the private agency's set; it looked like luxurious prison, scary company, or fake monastery. Though, I felt some coldness when it came to dealing with what was inside the characters, which left a clear negative effect on the acting. Ellen Barkin was awful, aside from a poorly written role, her face was so provocatively dead, and originally she's pathetically sexy to be that irresistible Femme Fatale !

Yes, it's partly amusing, acridly satirical, with a nasty character, capturing the outrageous sense of the 1980s' and the 1990s' erotic thrillers. But it's not a brilliant thriller, inasmuch as a movie about utterly unfaithful world, where all would kill or be killed simply for money and power. So when I listen to its clever sad music score, I feel the real motive of the movie, and I feel sad because the movie, as a whole, remains semi-contrived and imperfect though.
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Wasted CIA thriller
soranno26 October 2002
This yawner of a thriller stars Frank Langella and Ellen Barkin as the operators of a company that specializes in letting former secret agents commit corporate crimes. Laurence "Larry" Fishburne portrays Nelson Crowe, the former CIA agent who's the company's most recent recruit. A series of bizarre and not all that exciting situations follow as Langella and Barkin band together to find out just what their latest recruit's story really is. It all adds up to one of the slowest thrillers ever.
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Post Cold War skulk fiction
smatysia17 January 2000
This film was really neither very good or very bad. Laurence Fishburne plays a laid-off CIA agent peddling his skills in the private sector. Ellen Barkin is pretty, as always, but she really didn't convince me in her part. The film is a study in crosses, double-crosses, and maybe triple-crosses. You can pass this one up, there's probably something better on.
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