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jrgirones13 July 2002
Last night I watched "Heaven" on television. I was about to skip it because I hadn't heard nothing about it. Luckily, I stayed tuned. And I say luckily because it's one of the best films that I've seen lately.

"Heaven" is a marvelous conjunction of neo-noir drama with a surprising touch of magic realism. The story-line is so original that caught me in a while. The film construction is puzzling, but never confusing, and helps the film to be even more thrilling and fascinating than it's promising premise allowed us to expect. The editing job here is really remarkable; I'd dare to say it is, along with "Pulp Fiction" and "Memento", one of the most coherent and creative works seen in the nineties American filming.

Martin Donovan is excellent, as well as the rest of the cast, but if you look for one unforgettable character, the travesty Heaven, sweet, strong in her weakness and with the surprising ability to anticipate the fate of those who surround her, will immediately catch your eye.

After watching "The ugly" and this extraordinary piece of film art, I'm really looking forward to see Scott Reynold's new project.
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Entirely Different And Far Better From What I Expected
Theo Robertson2 May 2004
I got a free TV guide with Saturday's tabloid newspaper and it described HEAVEN as " A gambling addict contests custody of his son with his estranged wife , little knowing that she and his psychologist are having an affair " which has got to be the most misleading synopsis ever written . I know I often criticise the info button on my remote control but this has got to be the most misleading plot summary ever written . Okay this plot thread happens in the movie but it's totally unnecessary and the movie would have benefited if it had been excluded at first draft since it comes to a literal dead end

What HEAVEN is , is a violent compelling thriller with supernatural overtones . I don't really want to give too much away but it's a bit like THE DEAD ZONE meets THE CRYING GAME , rather strange , superbly directed and far far more thought provoking and touching than I was expecting .I should also mention the cast who do a good job , there might be a slight criticism in casting so many Brits , Americans and Aussies in the one movie making the location a little too cosmopolitan but hey it's an electic cast so we can overlook that . Oh and if you're wondering where you've seen " The Sweeper " he's the Rohan horseman from LORD OF THE RINGS and the psychologist creep used to be Chisholm from MINDER

If you like indie films I can certainly recommend it . If you like down beat movies I recommend it , and if you dislike the pop corn garbage that Hollywood has been producing for the last few years then boy do I recommend HEAVEN . Bare in mind however it's a thriller - not something the TV guide mentioned
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An intense, brilliant film that keeps the viewer thinking throughout
hippiedj2 July 2000
New Zealand director Scott Reynolds has a flair for getting into viewers heads while they watch, and this was very apparent in his previous film, The Ugly. Time seems to be a force in this film as well, by playing with the sequence of events, going forward and back. Fortunately, we seem to understand what happens (like the constant time playing in the film Siesta), and become more involved with what is happening to the characters. Gambling addictions, child custody, seedy strip joints, and even a psychic all weave a fascinating situation that could help or destroy all involved. Despite its rough nature, it still manages to be a very satisfying experience. One you will tell friends you have to see to believe. It does deserve notice as a unique film and hopefully word of mouth will help get this film the recognition it deserves.
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A weirdly different film that is gripping, well told and, ultimately, surprisingly involving
bob the moo5 May 2004
Robert Marling is a struggling architect who is a gambling addict, a drunk and separated from his wife. His wife is filing for divorce, seeking sole custody of their son and chasing Robert for more money than he has. The reason she is after the money is because she is having an affair with Dr Melrose, who is treating a stripper called Heaven. Heaven has a gift of premonition and she has seen Robert winning a lot of money from her boss, Stanner, in a card game. However, in her sessions with Melrose, Heaven tells him these visions - information he feeds to Jennifer's lover. Heaven also shares this information with Robert and, as a result, they get closer - however Heaven is also haunted with dark, violent visions of the future that she cannot fully understand.

I confused this film with another one of the same title when I videoed it last week. Despite this I decided to give it a try anyway and see if it was any good and I'm glad I did - which is not to say that I'm proclaiming this film for everyone. The plot is never less than weird, and this is possibly the only way to describe it. It goes places that I didn't expect and it goes there in moments of sudden pace changes or sudden violence. This is made more impacting by the non-linear way that the story is told, other reviewers have compared it to the backwards telling in Memento but it is not to that extreme. However we do quite often see consequences before the film shows us the actions that caused them. For the most part this seems to work really well, even if I would find it difficult to really explain why. What I do know is that the story and the manner of the telling served to pull me along with it effortlessly for the whole running time. The only word of warning would be that the film is quite graphically violent at times and the whole subject matter is unrelentingly dark.

The cast is a very strange mix that really reflects the strange mix of characters that are depicted. Mixing actors from America with those from New Zealand and Australia has a slightly confusing effect (at the start I thought it was happening in two different time zones) but the majority of them are worth this minor quibble. Donovan is nearly always watchable and he is here again, giving a great performance in a difficult role. Even more surprising is Danny Edwards, who plays Heaven without cliché and manages to make such an unlikely person into a character that I cared about. Schiff is a surprise and is very different from the West Wing character who I always see him as now; the film also has a pre-lord of the rings role for Karl Urban - he has not much character but he has a good presence. Going and Malahide are OK but really the film belongs to Donovan and Edwards (and to a lesser extent, Schiff) and they carry it well.

Of course by `belongs to them' I mean in the acting stakes as the film is very much the property of writer/director Reynolds. He gives the whole film a great feel and has written a script that could easily have been silly and exaggerated and it is to his credit that in his hands it only manages to be involving and really enjoyable.

Overall this is a great film that pleased me even more by the fact that I found it by chance. I'm sure many viewers will be put off by the character of Heaven, or the unexplained nature of her gift, or the way the film goes extreme places or even the fact that bits are told out of sequence, however I hope that most viewers will see these aspects as strengths - strengths that were held together by a writer/director who I will be looking out for from now on.
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Heaven is a violent film, a clever film and an original film.
bros6 June 2001
This film, shown at both the Montreal and Toronto film festivals, is

so original that its merits passed over the heads of the busy


Scott Reynolds uses a very clever device to allow the viewer to

suspend disbelief that one of the characters could accurately

foretell the future. Heaven, the seer, is a transvestite stripper in a

regular strip club. The viewer focuses on this improbability and

lets the improbability that someone can foresee the future slip into

the film's reality.

Having created a believable character that can and does foretell

the future, Reynolds is then faced with another problem. How to

keep the viewer from knowing the future. He accomplishes this

with a series of carefully staged flashbacks (and flash forwards)

that, although accurate, are out of sequence and therefore lead the

viewer to believe in a series of events that is not accurate.

I have never seen a more cleverly thought up, worked out and

executed script.

With his plan in place, Reynolds creates one of the most

improbable plots imaginable, but because we have moved beyond

suspending disbelief and become believers, one that seems very


Richard Schiff superbly portrays the character of the strip club

owner, Stanner. Stanner has hired Heaven and brought him/her

under his wing because he has turned Heaven's ability to foretell

the future into profits. Stanner, however, is also involved with

Robert Marling, played by Martin Donovan (II). I would continue to

say superbly, but the fact is, the acting in the film is first rate all


Marling is going through a bitter divorce with the stunning Joanna

Going as Jennifer Marling. Jennifer is seeing the sleazy

psychiatrist Dr. Melrose played by Patrick Malahide.

And in the pivotal coincidence, Heaven is also seeing the

unbelievably evil (but nonetheless believable) Dr. Melrose

because Heaven's visions of the future trouble him/her deeply (the

visions, not the sexual ambiguity).

Marling is a down and out gambling addict, an architect who is

designing a new club Stanner has commissioned with the

millions he has earned from following Heaven's visions of the

future. Marling is forever losing money to Stanner in poker games.

Heaven sets the plot in motion by foreseeing Marling saving him

from being viciously murdered by two sadistic thugs. Heaven sets

out to reward Marling by using his/her foretelling abilities to feed

Marling information on how the cards will fall in his poker hands

with Stanner.

Evil Dr. Melrose discovers this in his sessions with Heaven. He

seduces Jennifer. Advising her on her divorce settlement, the bad

doctor tells Jennifer to hold out for the fortune her husband is

about to come into as a result of Heaven's foretelling, intending to

take the fortune for himself.

Stanner has plenty of cash but can't resist playing the angles,

deciding to burn down his club to make way for the new one

designed by Marling. He hires two homicidal maniacs to do the

task for him, the same two sadists Heaven foresees murdering

him, and it is these two who initiate the mass slaughter that

makes the film so violent.

This film is a sleeper. It will be discovered, its clever features

copied and it will become a classic. Scott Reynolds does not have

a large body of work, but any director or writer would be proud to

have this film to their credit.
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Quirky with a lot of twists
tsmithjr1 February 2004
I almost didn't stay with this. "Heaven" is constantly shifting focus between the future and the present. And I'm not one to watch out of the norm sexual actors (in this case there's a transvestite). But I hung in and was engrossed in the movie. There are a lot of twists and turns which are very well handled. As a result, at various points, what you think is or has happened, may not have. I doubt anyone can guess the ending ahead of time. It's not what you expect. For what "Heaven" was trying to achieve, it did so in Aces. And I applaud the actors and director for that. It took a lot of vision to make sense of this and pull it off in the end.
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Gritty fairy tale or unpleasant, trashy potboiler?
Turfseer2 July 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Not only was 'Heaven' a straight-to-DVD affair but it was also a joint production between Miramax and producers in New Zealand. Hence, half the actors in the film are American and the other half are from New Zealand. The locale of the film is never identified and it's very odd to hear the husband and wife protagonists speak in an American accent while their young son speaks in a New Zealand accent.

'Heaven' is a strange movie. It's about this down-on-his-luck architect, Robert Marling going through a bitter divorce who fears losing custody of his young son vis-à-vis his estranged wife, Jennifer, who he is now separated from. Robert takes a job working for a sleazy strip club owner by the name of Stanner. 'Heaven' appears to be a pre-op transsexual who works for Stanner at the club. Despite the fact that Stanner often brutalizes Heaven, Robert turns a blind eye to Stanner's vile and demeaning behavior. We're asked to believe that Robert (who has a strong moral code as evidenced by his later acts of heroism in saving Heaven from being raped by two local punks as well as attempting to save his son after the boy is kidnapped) would simply tolerate Stanner's repulsive treatment of Heaven because he needs the work and also must support a gambling habit. So at times his failure to stick up for Heaven coupled with being overly chummy with the despicable Stanner, undermines his portrait as a sympathetic protagonist.

Heaven's trans-sexuality not only makes her the victim of Stanner's controlling personality but she's also victimized by the film's two other (lesser antagonists)—Jennifer's psychiatrist boyfriend, Melrose, and two nasty bar patrons who Stanner likes for some reason. Heaven is psychic and predicts the two central (and at times, overlapping) events of the film: Robert's mugging and his later intervention, saving Heaven from being raped. We never learn why Heaven has these special powers and it's rather convenient in terms of moving the plot forward when you have a character who can do such extraordinary things. The film's scenarist doesn't help things with a storyline that features events occurring in a non-linear fashion (there are flashbacks and flash forwards and cross-cutting of dialogue that adds to the general confusion).

A good part of the story involves Jennifer's ill-fated romance with her sleazy psychiatrist, Melrose, and subsequent attempt to gain custody of her and Robert's child. Heaven ends up surreptitiously taping Melrose who sexually assaults her (she's also a patient of the shrink) and hands the tapes to Robert who plays one of them at the custody hearing, exposing Melrose as a liar and a criminal. The plot becomes even more frantic when Stanner decides to torch his own club for insurance purposes only to be shot by the two buddies he hires. Finally, Robert saves Heaven from the two punks and he in turn is saved by "The Sweeper", the bouncer who Stanner had fired earlier after getting into a confrontation with the two murderous punks.

One of central implausible moments in 'Heaven' is when Stanner fires The Sweeper. At the beginning of the film, he praises him as the best bouncer who's ever worked for him. But after The Sweeper confronts the two punky bad guys, Stanner takes their side and fires him. Why would a strip club owner who presumably needs to keep his business going by keeping order, fire a competent bouncer and stick up for a bunch of low-life's who could easily make trouble for him? Unless of course he knew all along that he was going to hire the punks to set the club on fire—but that's never made clear at the film's outset.

The main problem with Heaven is with the character of Stanner who is so vile that one cannot believe in him at all. The trick in creating believable antagonists is to give them both sympathetic and unsympathetic attributes. Stanner's 'charming' moments are few and far between. Melrose is a much more sinister and believable bad guy. Heaven (as well as 'The Sweeper') are drawn to the other extreme. They are wholly 'too good', too sympathetic and serve no other function than wearing the mantle of undeserved victim-hood. Robert and Jennifer's tussles are pretty standard stuff, although I think it was a nice touch that Robert doesn't run back to his wife and stay with her in the end.

'Heaven' aspires to be a gritty fairy tale and moves along at a fairly brisk pace. While not always plausible, the film's strength is in its plot. Despite the multitude of unfolding, quirky events, one doesn't care for or believe in these characters. I've alluded to the problems earlier: Stanner's lack of virtually any redeeming qualities; the unexplained quality of Heaven's visions and her one-dimensional portrait as pure victim and Robert and Jennifer's rather pedestrian custody battle. 'Heaven' explores evil only on the surface. It's an unpleasant, trashy potboiler worth watching, but certainly not more than once.
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Offbeat and interesting thriller
The_Void9 February 2009
Scott Reynolds may not exactly be well known; but his excellent 2001 thriller When Strangers Appear really took me by surprise, and while Heaven is not as accomplished as the aforementioned film, it's still a very good thriller that takes in multiple different elements, which are somehow combined into a mostly coherent whole. Like many post-Pulp Fiction crime thrillers, this one features a fragmented plot which is told through various flashbacks. The main character is Robert Marling; a man with a gambling addiction. He is recovering from a nasty split with his wife Jennifer, who also wants custody of their son. Robert is friends with Stanner; the proprietor of a strip club and employer of transvestite dancer Heaven. Heaven has an unusual ability to see into the future and takes a shine to Robert when she recognises him from one of her premonitions. The plot thickens when it emerges that the psychologist treating Robert is having an affair with his wife and also treating Heaven...

Most of the film is kept within the realms of possibly; the only exception to this being the mystical abilities of the title character, which comes off as being a little strange despite being integral to the plot. Initially, I had the film pegged as a rip-off of The Crying Game; but actually it doesn't make a meal of its gender-bending lead character at all. The plot does flow surprisingly well considering that it is put forward in a fragmented manner; the strong screenplay manages to put everything across in such a way that it all makes sense. There's no shortage of memorable characters, with strip club owner Stanner standing out most in that respect. The strip club itself is very well done and the director ensures that it has a fantastically sleazy atmosphere; it's just a shame that it isn't featured more! The ending is suitably strange and ambiguous; therefore suiting the film well. All in all, this is not quite a brilliant thriller; but it's well made and gripping for the duration and therefore I recommend it.
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Fascinating neo-noir thriller triumphs over rough edges
herbqedi4 February 2004
Danny Edwards, Martin Donovan, and Richard Schiff as the starring threesome have indescribably excellent interwoven chemistry. The director shows us things in non-chronological order, but unlike the overblown Pulp Fiction, most definitely not random, and ties it all up beautifully before all is said and then. The seamy soundtrack, classic set-up antihero with an heroic heart, and dark alleyways and dance club make a perfect backdrop for the films neo-noirist construction. The fast pacing is also a plus.

The only nit I feel compelled to pick are two actors who clearly were not on the same page with the rest of the film. The actor playing the unscrupulous psychiatrist does everything but twirl a mustache to let you know he's evil before we're even supposed to realize that. And, the young actor playing Martin Donovan's son seems to be looking at the camera, not his father, far too often. Everyone else was absolutely terrific. Danny Edwards is magnificent in the "Crying Game" type role.
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How Things Can Go Wrong in a Life...
Daryl-718 January 2004
I liked this movie quite a lot. The chopped-up plotline was a little annoying sometimes, but it was quite effective. Small things like intersplicing the phone call between the husband and wife with the phone call between the wife and psychologist.

The acting was quite good. Heaven, the transvestite, is this huge guy but somehow he comes off as being feminine and almost delicate. The big exception in the acting department is Martin Donovan. Several posters here thought he was good. In my opinion, he was almost bad enough to ruin the entire film! He is as wooden as a soap opera actor, and his timing is some of the worst I've ever seen. Differences in opinions, I guess.

This movie is well worth watching. A trip to the dark side of town, of obsessions, of addictions (gambling) and the human mind. Dark? yes. Entertaining? Also yes.

8 stars
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How in the world did this excellent film not get released?!
Adam-956 December 1999
Saw "Heaven" on a strong recommendation though I'd never heard of it. The story's centered around a stripper named Heaven and the relationships formed around her, a compulsive gambler, his wife and the stripjoint owner. Scary, suspenseful, funny and altogether quite unique. It's a great film. Brilliantly directed, written and acted. It's recently been released on video. Seek it out!
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Heaven is interesting non-linear story telling
lgf-316 January 2006
Although the technique is used with greater skill in "28 Grams," "Heaven" uses a back-and-forth-in-time editing technique to keep the viewer on their toes and constantly thinking. The technique always reminds me of a friend telling a long complicated tale who will break to say, "Oh, I forgot to tell you, before we went A-B-C, there was this incident where X-Y-Z happened." Not a good way to explain it, but I find it an interesting way to let a story unfold. Danny Edwards plays a transsexual, not a transvestite (as the previous reviewer erroneously identified the character-- there is a major difference between the two) and does a splendid job creating a believable and sympathetic character. If the film lacks anything, it's that no one seems to have a cell phone right when when would come in handy (and be expected.) It's also never explained why Robert Marling (the architect character at the story's center) supposedly only has "$200 in the bank" in one scene, only to be gambling two grand just hours later. There is one sloppy edit where the bouncer, Sweeper, turns away from a jerk he's just smacked away from the strip club, that quick cuts to a close up where his face is turned another direction, then cuts back to the first camera angle. Other than that, the time shifts in the editing are what keep the movie fresh and interesting.
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The kind of film that this database is made for.
somf2 September 2000
I choose not to review this terrific little film as much as to discuss how IMDB can prove to be such a useful tool. Maybe it's you that picked up the video box and was a bit curious about the film, so you went home to your computer and looked it up and lo and behold there were twelve comments all singing it's praises and something like 65% of the viewers gave "Heaven" an 8 or above. So you go to the video store the next week and maybe you still don't pick out the film, because Hey I don't know "Supernova" just came out and you wonder if it really is as bad as they say, but finally one night your feeling adventurous and you decide to rent the darn thing and before you know it you're adding another praise to the database. That's my story anyway, but you know the thing that bugs me, the thing that really chaps my butt is that if you're just doing a search for good scores, you'd never rent this, because of the bizzare weighting system deep in the annals of IMDB. Somehow at this writing this film has a 5.9 weighted average. Folks I am here to tell you that I have an MBA in market research from the Wharton School of business and I haven't a clue how this film could rate a 5.9 when only 24% of respondents rank it 6 or below. Now "Let It Ride" is my choice for the most underrated comedy of all time and just try to figure out how they came up with the score that they did on that one...but I digress. See this flick. It's an eight or a very strong seven, and darn it, it's different.
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fanaticita25 March 2003
Okay, I am a Martin Donovan fan first of all, and Heaven was an incredible vehicle for Martin to show us once again his great acting skills. In fact, the entire cast did a great job. Yes, the sequence of the film was a bit confusing, but then became very surprising and enjoyable -never predictable. Martin is a master of subtlety and watching him perform is pure delight. Next to the Book of Life, this is my favorite Donovan film.
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A thrilling, bizarre and fundamentally unique experience easily worth seeking out
pyrocitor25 March 2009
Warning: Spoilers
For any number of films which are celebrated for being different, for offering some facet of innovation into increasingly familiar patterns of cinematic experience, there will always remain those films, like Scott Reynolds' Heaven, which slip through the cracks of cultural knowledge. With an infamous back history of being bought and released almost straight to DVD by the Weinstein Company to not confuse prospective viewers regarding their more 'accessible' release, director Tom Tykwer's Heaven starring Cate Blanchett and Giovanni Ribisi (which was subsequently released in 2002), Reynolds' Heaven quickly drifted into obscurity. Yet, upon viewing, this becomes all the more tragic, as Reynolds' film proves an ingenious hidden gem of a film which toys with and subverts viewer expectations as craftily as it constructs its own, viscerally unique experience.

While the storyline premise, out of context, could not sound more incongruous. The provided television summary reads: " A gambling addict contests custody of his son with his estranged wife, little knowing that she and his psychologist are having an affair " - which, while it is a subplot of the film, says nothing of the film's more profoundly bizarre and unique characteristics, such as its clairvoyant transvestite stripper protagonist, to mention only one. The inter-splicing of fantasy within a brutal neo-noir environment admittably requires suspension of disbelief, but Reynolds barely gives his viewers a chance to reflect on the 'unbelievable' plot device, whipping his film along at such a frenzied pace that the audience remains riveted simply in an effort to keep up. But Reynolds' cinematic manipulation hardly stops with the film's pace, as he equally toys with and subverts spatial- temporal relations, inter-cutting conversations held in identical locations over different times, leaving the viewer continually forced to question what is actually happening when, and who is saying what to who.

While such a unique cinematic trope could simply result in a chaotic mess (and is inevitable to distance many viewers) Reynolds masterfully keeps his film together, miraculously tying together any extraneous plot holes and drawing the viewer into a claustrophobic yet fascinating and enthralling convoluted narrative. Finally, when the film's unconventional tension rises to near insurmountable levels, Reynolds again pulls the proverbial rug out from under the viewer with an alternatively gruesome and triumphant ending which embraces the sort of Hollywood conventions the film had vehemently resisted up until that point. Yet instead of such an ending feeling like a creative cop-out, it instead feels cathartically necessary, finally giving the viewer a necessary emotional release, while simultaneously feeling subtly ironic throughout, as if chuckling at its own willful fulfilling of viewer expectations. A remarkable cinematic tour-de-force for director Reynolds, it is both frustrating and tragic that such a talented filmmaker remains so unappreciated by the industry.

Yet the film's strengths go beyond its bizarre premise and manipulation of time and narrative. The film's equally strange setting is equally likely to leave viewers scratching their heads, with a mix of American, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and South African (among others) accents, currencies and otherwise cultural presences, begging the question as to whether the film is even meant to take place within a contemporary 'realistic' context, or some not too distant future where cultures intermingle and clairvoyant transvestite strippers somehow do not seem out of place. However, the film's innately strange setting perfectly compliments the grim absurdity of its neo-noir trappings, a gritty world of shadows and filth which manages to achieve being both aesthetically fantastic and frighteningly real simultaneously. Victoria Kelly's equally incongruous musical score fits right into the tone of strange, but only a shade away from normal, perfectly accentuating the escalating tension and mystery.

Reynolds' assembly of a cast of superbly talented character actors brings his collection of colourful characters to vivid, memorable life. Martin Donovan gives an unshowy and sturdy performance as the gambling addict architect protagonist, forced to resort to designing strip clubs to garner money to pay for legal bills to fight for custody of his son. Donovan carries the perfect mix of conventional and quirky, making him the ideal leading man for a film which exemplifies such a hybrid, and his grounded charisma binds the outlandish facets of the film together as a sturdy emotional center. Similarly, Danny Edwards is luminous as aforementioned clairvoyant transvestite stripper Heaven, managing to make an innately strange character both entirely credible and achingly sympathetic, giving an emotionally resonant, lingering and genuinely human performance. The tragically underrated Richard Schiff is phenomenal as a crooked strip club owner, coming across as perversely charming even at his most despicable, and Joanna Going delivers a measured, powerful performance as Donovan's flawed yet morally struggling ex-wife, thankfully refusing to turn her character into a villain. In contrast, Patrick Malahide has tremendous fun chewing the scenery and embracing gruesomely malicious psychiatrist Melrose - when Heaven scathingly declares Melrose to be the devil, it hardly feels an overstatement, so memorably yet fittingly grotesque is Malahide. Finally, Karl Urban delivers the sort of role which, had the film enjoyed popularity, would have made him a superstar overnight as the mysterious bouncer known only as "The Sweeper", with Urban making astoundingly powerful use of his tragically but necessarily few scenes.

To say more regarding the plot would ruin the wonderful guessing game of the film, but suffice to say that such a fundamentally unique and masterfully thrilling cinematic experience deserves to be seen by all willing to commit to its brutal violence and confounding manipulation of narrative. Despite being virtually culturally unknown and its incongruous premise, Heaven delivers near peerless thrills of the sort literally almost never seen in the mainstream, making it easily worth searching out. Those who come across it are unlikely to be disappointed.

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So glad I rented this film!
Gritty Kitty22 January 2000
I took a chance on this rental, and was so glad I did. It literally, 'kept me on the edge of my seat' throughout the entire film. The writing and direction is so well done, that I felt like 'I' was the one having the psychic flashes. The acting was also very good. I felt so much for the character, Heaven. If all thrillers were this inventive, I'd have a new favorite genre.
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Gore galore when Heaven hits Hollywood
Philby-34 December 1999
I had a premonition about this movie. Young NZ director (Scott Reynolds) makes low budget but interesting first feature ("Ugly") and gets snared by Hollywood. Makes more ambitious next film (although the budget doesn't seem to be much greater) in the style of film noir meets Tarantino (with less humour and more gore.) Bet he fluffs it.

Well, he does, up to a point. There's plenty of talent here in this familiar but painful tale of an architect (Martin Donovan) down on his uppers and suffering from a severe case of compulsive gambling trying to preserve access to his young son (Michael Langley.) He is really up against it. His beautiful but very fed-up estranged wife (Joanna Going) is having an affair with their marriage guidance counsellor (Patrick Malahide) and for good measure has appropriated his lawyer as well (there's enough professional conflict of interest here to keep a couple of misconduct tribunals going for months).

Our architect's current client, a sleazy nightclub owner (Richard Schiff), is doing his best to reduce him to penury through their late-night poker games. Into this mess floats Heaven, a six-foot four Polynesian transsexual and nightclub dancer (Danny Edwards, in a standout performance), who sees in the near future useful things like winning card hands, and some more nasty pending events. She takes a shine to the architect and helps him through the mess, but not after being pretty badly treated herself.

Really I think this film is spoiled by too much gore. It has a good intelligent storyline, fine acting, suitably grungy locations and sets, plenty of pace, imaginative time-shifting and cross-cutting (without being too obscure) and then all this stupid carnage towards the end, lovingly and lingeringly shot. Less is more!

Still, I enjoyed Patrick Malahide (unforgettable years ago as the nasty perpetually frustrated Inspector Chisholm in TV's "Minder") who plays the unethical counsellor. Danny Edwards beautifully conveys the pain of someone who can see the future but, having a rather passive nature, is not well equipped to deal with it. Still, people like Heaven do attract protectors, and, fittingly, she gets it together with Raymond (Karl Urban), the club's handsome macho bouncer.

The film was shot in Auckland, New Zealand with an NZ cast apart from (I think) four of the leads, but it appears as an identi-kit grungy urban environment from anywhere. (Though it has to be pointed out that Auckland railway station's 1930s "Georgian Maori" architecture is pretty distinctive and there are plenty of right hand drive cars of 70s vintage that never saw a US freeway). I don't know what it is about Auckland, a pretty place on a fine harbour, that makes filmmakers present it in such a way. Another recent example was "Once Were Warriors" but that was a film of great cultural relevance. This one just uses Auckland as a toilet.

The price of participation in global film culture? Though Miraxmax are listed as the producers, I'd feel happier if it carried the wording "no government money was used in the making of this film."
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A true sleeper hit
ajy129 November 1999
I had no idea what to expect after seeing Scott Reynolds' "The Ugly," but having heard about this film's limited theatrical run, I thought that it was probably not going to be as ingenious and cool as it turned out to be. Not since "The Limey," or even "Pulp Fiction" has a film so deftly used a flashback/flashforward structure. Thoroughly engrossing and shocking, if with quite a bit of heart, Reynolds should've easily seen his stock rise because of this one. I hope that everyone can go rent this one and see for yourself what all the fuss should be about.
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A Hidden Gem!
pawprivate28 November 1999
This is a hidden gem! Hidden due to limited release. A Gem for many reasons. Superb directing - one of the most creative uses of flashbacks and flash"forwards" I have ever seen. Superb acting! Martin Donovan (II) stands out - as he did in The Opposite of Sex - and the rest of the cast is excellent too. This film kept pulling me deeper into the story, intriguing me but never deliberately leaving me behind.(No Twin Peaks Here - but a nice touch of supernatural!) Watch closely every second! You never know when the next revelation is coming and even then - you may not be sure WHEN the revelation refers to!

Made my Day!
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C'est Magnifique!
QueenRa14 November 1999
This film was absolutely stunning in all areas. The cinematography was unique, the acting was flawless, the writing was wonderful and the directing was fabulous. I was kept on my toes the entire time, you must see this film.(Not to mention that the ubiquitous Karl Urban is in it*swoon*)
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captive in paradise
Erekozi7 November 2000
This a quite respectable and honest in it's intentions movie. The screenplay isn't very intriguing but it's improved by the inconsistency of many scenes and the weird characters to make a good result.The acting was nice especially from Martin Donovan and the guy who played the shrink but i thought that his character and it's motives weren't explained enough.The music suits perfectly with the mood of the movie and fits with the action.In some moments of the film i was drawn in it's universe but in others i was bored and thought that it could need a faster montage.Finally i must say that i liked the corridor with the bulbs and that this film would be a nice choice the next time you go to the video club.
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A super film that no one's ever seen
Adam-9529 May 2000
Why, oh why Miramax Films barely released this gem boggles the mind. Disturbing, provocative and exciting "Heaven" works on all counts. It's structure, utilizing flashbacks and flashforwards, constantly keeps the viewer on edge. Not since the 70's has a filmmaker displayed such editing bravura. The cast is exceptional, especially Martin Donovan as a gambling addict.
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brilliant film
ARI-2626 September 1999
one of the best films i've seen this year. unfortunately nobody got a chance to see it because harvey and bob over at miramax decided to release it on only ONE screen. it's sad that they didn't have faith in it. martin donovan is absolutely incredible in it. it's a really remarkable film - it has the most innovative narrative structure i have seen in a film in years (including pulp fiction). It's a brilliant film - rent it when it comes out on video.
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Very B flick
Bob711 April 2000
I'm totally puzzled by the reviewers who liked this so much. It's in the same league as other B flicks like Montana, and Prisoner of Love. The plot if very interesting, but the acting is very ordinary, like a TV network movie, and it generally plods along. It isn't even visually interesting like New Rose Hotel. There are many better flicks to spend your rental money on.
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I am in the minority here
jaybob30 April 2001
this is a very confusing mishmash of a film, with very disagreable people in it. the actor who played the night club owner almost made me turn the film off. martin donavan who is a fine actor did not convince me, in the slightest.

the music & cinematography was good & Danny Edwards as Heaven was excellent

most of the others were either hateful or annoying

my rating is only **

as always

jay harris
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