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A bit more than a footnote to The Pianist, but only just
It's fun to watch the now famous Adrien Brody interact with the warm and pretty Charlotte Ayanna, the great Jon Seda of Homicide, and that Tarantino-revived 70's icon Pam Grier. Love the Hard Way has a more than decent cast that works well together: Brody has good chemistry with both Ayanna and Seda, and the New York of the movie has good chemistry too: it's real and beautiful without being obtrusive. The German director and the French cinematographer may be why the town has such a fresh look in this movie.
The clothes, however, are obtrusively bad -- it's lucky Brody has a model's body and Seda is hunky, or those duds would make us laugh them off the screen.
The German director's adaptation of a Chinese novel translated to New York may be a bit secondhand. Nonetheless it's not uninteresting to have a pimp/extortionist who's also a budding writer: the film and the actor are intelligent enough to make us entertain the possibility of the two people in one body.
But despite various points of interest, none of it quite works.
I wasn't convinced that any of this stuff was real--the emotional collapse of the petty criminal, the descent into prostitution of the brilliant med student, or their miraculous coming together two years later after prison and a botched suicide.
The trouble with the attempt to establish a hard-edged milieu is that what Brody and Seda's characters are doing doesn't seem ugly enough: the bedroom scams are too pat, and too independent of the outside big city world of crime. The big bachelor pad isn't mean and sleazy enough either; nothing is: I can't quite believe in Brody as a bad guy. The early scenes where Brody and Ayanna are wooing each other start him off not looking hard at all; in fact he just seems like a nice cocky young Jewish boy who's full of himself and bursting with joie de vivre. He could easily be a college student just playing tough and low-life to seem sexy to a studious, well brought up girl. His pimp clothes and pimp manner don't fit him right and just seem put on to strike a pose.
You keep watching your DVD for the acting job Brody, Ayalla and Seda do. As in 21 Grams, they manage to produce many powerful emotional moments even if it doesn't all meld together into a story. The incoherence is signaled by the confused ending. This is a bit more than merely an obscure footnote to The Pianist, but only just.
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