But the ending was unsatisfying, and left me wanting more.
Second Skin (2000)
User ReviewsReview this title
But the ending was unsatisfying, and left me wanting more.
The first half of Second Skin is pretty tolerable. I felt I was watching a fair and honest low budget noir picture, certainly moving toward some major twists. But I could never expect the plot could become so flawed and the second half of the movie could become so lame and dreary.
This predictable, cliché-ridden movie could have been interesting. The music and the photography create a nice, moody atmosphere. Henstridge is, well... sensual as the femme-fatale, and MacFadyen is ok as the guy running from his past. Even though I don't like the way some scenes are cut, the real problem is the plot which turns out to be some kind of mess in the second half of the movie.
After the 90 minutes of Second Skin it's frustrating to realize probably nothing will linger in your memory apart from the beauty of Henstridge.
Pretty photography and an absolutely gorgeous lead babe can't hide the fact that there is no plot, that the girl is getting involved with a guy who has the charisma of a rotting potato and that by the time you get to the mystery, you've really stopped caring.
The movie _slowly_ meanders from one cliche to the next. Guy without a past runs a bookstore without clientele, when a beautiful babe comes in and spouts a number of tacky cliches. Then, in the mother of all plot devices, she walks out the store and _gets hit by a car_ so she can "lose her memory".
Who cares? I don't. A waste of money.
The plot has a few interesting twists, but the dialogue is banal and many of the scenes drag. However, for a film made on a $3.5 Million budget, director Darrell Roodt delivers some excellent photography and shows himself to be talented at creating powerful imagery.
If there are two things that stand out from this film, they are the talents of Roodt and Henstridge. Roodt gives the images style and richness with interesting perspective shots and a number of beautiful location shots. I'd like to see him get a more prominent project where he can put his talents to work. Natasha Henstridge carries the film with an excellent performance that should portend a shot at meatier roles in the future. Her striking appearance and superior acting ability is made even more obvious playing against journeyman Angus MacFadyen, whose performance here helps validate his relegation to supporting roles throughout his career. MacFayden is stiff and forced, contributing little to the believability of his character. As mediocre as MacFayden is, Liam Waite is worse. Peter Fonda gives a nefarious performance in a minor role.
This film isn't bad for a B movie and shows twinkles on the horizon for Roodt and Henstridge. I rated it a 6/10. With a stronger screenplay, it could have been very entertaining.
We have in the film noir "Second Skin" the usual mystery woman calling herself Crystal Ball, Natasha Henstridge, who has, after being hit by a runaway car, trouble remembering her past. There's also the somewhat strange used book store owner Sam Kane, Angus MacFadyen, who seems not at all interested in attracting customers to his store but also, in how he has no worries at all about paying the rent, independently wealthy.
After Crystal's accident Sam gets very close to her not only hiring Crystal as his assistant, a job which at first Chrystal wanted, at the store but having this creepy looking guy Tommy G, Liam Waite, show up looking to buy children books not for any children but for himself! As things turn out Tommy G and Crystal do in fact know each other and are both working for the "Man" United Brotherhood of Tanners Union President Merv Gutman, Peter Fonda!
***SPOILERS*** As the movie slowly unfolds we realize that Sam the used book store man ain't exactly what he want's us, and Crystal, to think he is! In fact we also find that Crystal isn't exactly what she want's Sam, and us in the audience, to think who she's also! We also learn that Tommy G turns out to be not only Crystal's boyfriend but somehow working together with Sam in a elaborate pay-off scheme to Gutman whom Sam, before he became Sam, owns money too! On top of all this confusion there's former Goernment Treasury Agent Hawthorne, Norman Anstey, who's blackmailing Sam to expose his true identity, as if he didn't know that already, to Gutman and want's a cool half million dollars in order to keep his mouth shut!
The film just goes on and on with a series of confusing sub-plots and mind boggling double-crosses with Sam seeming to take on at least two other identifies, which makes it hard to follow his actions in the movie, by the time its finally over! The most confusing and odd-ball character in the film is non other then Tanner Union President Merv Gutman. This guy is so off the wall that even when he explains his reasons for wanting to do in the luckless Sam, who already paid off his debt to him, you get the strange impression that he just escaped from a local loony bin!
As for the big surprise ending the person providing the surprise was about the least surprising character in the movie! In that if you blinked or sneezed while watching "Second Skin" you could have very well have missed him, or her, in the previous less then cameo scene he was in!
I found the acting good overall - though it was a little contrived to prevent the public seeing "more" of Natasha Henstridge in the "love" scenes.
The DVD was sold here, a week ago, for 2euros, so the film company obviously didn't place much value in it.
The dialogue is so bad it's laughable, it has cardboard characters with cardboard acting, and, to remind you that you're looking at full-bore noir, it's loaded with clichés (a slinky femme fatale, thunder and lightning, a lot of rain, dark clubs, moody music, hookers, obvious villains with faces shaded in menacing darkness throughout; the list goes on). It has characters named Tommy Gunn (a gruesomely tattooed, gum-thwacking bad guy; see Richard Widmark, 1947, Kiss of Death), Sam (as in Spade, a sort of good guy), Gutman (as in Sydney Greenstreet's character in The Maltete Falcon), and Crystal Ball.
Scriptwriter John Lau and director Darrell Roodt, in other words, seem to be having fun with 1940s-style noir films. Unfortunately, we don't get to share in the fun. It's an unintentionally hilarious flick because it plays it dead-straight from start to finish. (Sample dialogue: 'Cherchez la femme'. 'What's that?' 'It's French'. One of the most famous phrases in the French language, and the femme fatale has never heard of it. Jeez.)
As parody, this might have been at least tolerable; when played straight it's screaming for ridicule.
There's a twist at the end, and you don't see it coming, and how could you? The 'other' woman who gives it the twist appears in the film without any context, so the viewer is left befuddled by the ending more than shocked, which is what noir audiences in the 1940s used to be when they saw similar kinds of stuff.
Noir directors in the '40s-early '50s (e.g. Samuel Fuller, Henry Hathaway, Jules Dassin) made some excellent (and very cheap) films, and they did them with style, good pacing, and believable dialogue. And they didn't have the luxury of sexual situations and famous four-letter words that saturate this pile of tripe, which apparently cost something like $3.5 million (not a lot these days, but still...) to make. The leftish Dassin, for one, is shouting from somewhere in Europe, where he's been cloistered since the witch-hunts of the 1950s. You could feed a lot of hungry people with $3.5 million, I can hear him saying.
This film is laughable, and doesn't intend to be. Ultimately, that's why it's so sad.
The plot needed some help; I agree that the ending was poor, at least in part due to the mystery girl suddenly becoming so central at the end. There were other plot holes too, and a lot of cliches. Still, the mood of the film was nicely established, and I did feel some interest in the characters and finding out what their relationships were to one another. 4/10; would have been higher with a more rational plot, a more justifiable ending (not to say a cliched one, necessarily, but...), and a little more energy from the male lead.
The only reason to watch is to get disappointed with yourself for having watched it - it's so bad you can't turn away!