Point of Origin (TV Movie 2002) Poster

(2002 TV Movie)

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5/10
Worth a watch
oceanmyst22 June 2002
Good story. Starts out strong but weakens along the way.

Once you find out who is setting the fires, there's not much more to keep your interest. Of course it goes back and forth as to who is really the guilty party but..it gets kind of dull.
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9/10
Hard to believe it was THAT good
secretagent_00716 July 2003
At first glance it's just a movie of the week. It's true that it was one of HBO's original movies, but to call it a movie of the week would be to limit it to a group of movies with hackneyed plots, weak actors, and clueless directors. Point of Origin is so much more than those terrible excuses for entertainment.

The story concerns an arson investigator (Ray Liotta) and his protege (John Leguizamo) who are investigating a particularly nasty string of arson fires. Those of you who remember the news of the incident this film is based on might see the story coming, but most people will not simply because it is too outlandish to be true. But it IS.

What grabbed me most in this movie were the two lead performances by Leguizamo and Liotta as well as a directorial vision that is on the verge of brilliance. Every creative decision made in this movie had a very specific goal. Pay close attention to the palette of colors used. Much of the movie is made up completely of black, white, and orange. Special effects are used to great effect in putting the audience and the characters "inside" the fires they are investigating. As far as TV movies go, this one was truly refreshing.
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Well Done look at true story of the Glendale Arsonist.
rixrex11 June 2008
Much better than most TV and Cable-TV produced movies, with some very nice cinematic stylings.

If you know nothing about the actual events, this will be more enjoyable and more interesting than if you already know the story. There are certain plot points that obscure some of the fire-setting activities and create suspense and drama that won't exist if you already know the story.

Even if you know basically what happened, it's interesting to see the events unfold and how those involved discovered the truth about the multitude of arson fires set around the Glendale and Los Angeles areas.

No spoilers here to ruin it for you, and it is recommended highly by this viewer.
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7/10
The Ultimate TV Movie
UnCritic29 June 2002
Well the IMDB crowd didn't seem to think much of it but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I feel that in many ways this HBO production based on a stranger-than-fiction arson investigation is the best that small screen productions can be. However, beware aspiring filmmakers, it doesn't follow the classic Sid Field story arc.

The movie was directed by one of the finest cinematographers in recent times; just check his IMDB profile-- http://us.imdb.com/Name?Sigel,+Newton+Thomas. I look forward to seeing his future works.

If the story catches your interest, you might want to track down a NOVA special entitled "Hunt for the Serial Arsonist", and compare the screenplay to the facts of the case including interviews with investigator John Orr.
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9/10
Oscar winner, no. Interesting true story, yes.
crawl-18 June 2003
This effort is worth 90 minutes of your life. As fiction, no, but as a true story, yes. An arsonist is on the loose and the investigation leads to an unlikely suspect. This old Hollywood line ties into the ending. I will leave it there.

Ray Liotta and John Leguizamo are the focus characters and lesser actors would have made this less interesting.

Other comments saying the story doesn't tie together neatly ignore the fact that real crime seldom is neatly packaged. Juries often convict(correctly) on evidence which doesn't all fit into place. Hollywood needs tidiness but the truth often is less than what Hollywood needs.

It's lurid enough to keep the under 35 crowd awake and thoughtful enough to keep the rest of us thinking.

I remember when Wayne Williams was arrested for serial murders in Atlanta. The number of similar murders dropped to near zero when he was put in prison.
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Interesting
MaximillianSanders25 June 2002
Fairly diverting procedural based on a real arson investigation. A terrible score and some awfully strange direction that doesn't really suit the story is kept from ruining the film by a compelling performance by Ray Liotta. A veritable cornicopia of actors who should be more famous than they are, it also features John Leguizamo and Cliff Curtis.

Don't adjust your schedule to see it, but if its ever on, give it a c
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I expected more
MillandFan13 July 2002
This film seemed to have rushed to make it's point (who was setting the fires), then dragged on painfully until the end. There was, however, some really good non-reality, or thought scenes that were interesting, until the "Crouching-Tiger, Hidden Dragon" moves were thrown in, and those were completely unnecessary.

I love Ray Liotta. I collect his films, and I have to say that this is one that goes in the collection for the collection's sake. I'll probably not watch it again.
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4/10
tries to hard to be cool
jackrabbitslims-11 July 2002
like those dumb kids in high school who try to make friends with everyone and always carry gum and smell funny, this movie tries to hard to attract everyone's interest. It's a weak screenplay with some pretty good cinematography, but it loses it's audience's interest early on.
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6/10
Stretches credibility .......
merklekranz15 December 2007
"Point of Origin" may or may not take liberties with the facts. It is supposedly based on a true story, however it definitely takes liberties with the audience. What is shown to be real, is then flip flopped in the audiences mind to justify an ending that was not quite satisfying. Ray Liotta gives a good performance as do the supporting cast, and as entertainment the film succeeds. It does leave some questions that nag at the viewer, which drags the total movie down a notch. The rapid fire effects are another negative as they become redundant after awhile. My conclusion is that this could have been a better movie if it played on a more level field with the audience, and the fire effects were toned down. Marginally recommended. - MERK
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5/10
A seriously missed opportunity
Erewhon7 October 2003
This confused and confusing movie tries to be based both on the real case of the worst serial arsonist in California history, and on a book by John Orr, a former arson investigator for the city of Glendale.

The script is clumsy and ill-formed, and plays a foolish trick on the audience regarding two of the characters, the arsonist and John Orr. Nothing is gained by this particular trick; in fact, a great deal of possible audience involvement is completely sacrificed.

The real case is depicted with some accuracy, but also some pointless fiction is inserted, and a potentially fascinating story is badly undercut.

The director is ordinarily a superlative cinematographer, and there's some good cinematography here, too. But there's also a great deal of silly camera trickery -- there's even a shot looking upward at two people (one a very minor character) from >under the foot< of one of them. The fire scenes are deeply unconvincing, and needn't have been.

One odd touch: two of the real-life arson investigators are depicted in the film, and one of them plays the OTHER one. And the other one also appears. Very complex and almost funny.
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Good Story that caught me off guard
cafesmitty10 August 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Reviewer: Edward M. Smith from Glen Burnie, md United States I knew absolutely nothing about this story before seeing the movie. The film began and when it said that it was based off true events, I almost turned it off. What caught my attention was the visual portrayer of the arson investigation... after that it was the story and the performances of the actors themselves. Ray Liotta stars as arson investigator John Orr. He, along with John Leguizamo, are trying to figure out who is starting all these arson-based fires. John Orr is well regarded as the chief arson inspector and if anyone can find out, he can. So the film plays out like a cat and mouse game. You are trying to figure out what is motivating the person who is setting these fires. What makes the story a bit more compelling is that, during the 90's, at least three firefighters were arrested for arson. After watching the DVD, I found myself going over the film again. I figured, since it was based on a true story the DVD would have some interesting extras. I was disappointed, therefore could not give it a 5. Nevertheless I did find the story fascinating.
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8/10
Well acted and directed, with a plot twist
ManiacCop26 June 2002
This film was interesting to watch on a few levels. It was well acted and directed, with a plot twist. The direction is unique in style and conveys the plots ideas well. The director uses bright and dull colors to show what the characters are thinking. He also uses sound to bring the audience into an arsonist's mind. I did miss the first ten minutes of the movie, but from what I saw this movie will keep the viewer interested and curious.

Ray Liotta also shines as a highly intelligent and shady Arson detective. The supporting cast does a good job keeping the tension and the enigmatic qualities of Point of Origin going. This movie could have made the theaters if there was just one more big actor in it. It is a lot better than many "theater worthy" films that I have seen in the past. Overall I'd say watch it, over all of those carbon copy movies that you see at the video store.
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5/10
Fire cop or fire bug?
=G=30 June 2002
"Point of Origin" takes the viewer into the life of a workaholic top Los Angeles arson investigator (Liotta) who is married with children, having some extracurricular activity on the side, writing a book, and investigating a serial arson case. Jeesh, talk about burning the candle at both ends! On the upside, this HBO product has a promising plot with some twisty-turny stuff. However, pinched at the end, fraught with plot holes, and cluttered with surreal visual effects, "Point of Origin" is likely to ignite little interest beyond that of the wayward channel surfer.
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SPOILER: Answer to Questions posed by Previous Critiques
imahandful29 October 2004
Warning: Spoilers
First I will admit that this movie is coming on as I sit here writing. I have, however, read both Joseph Wambaugh's book, Fire Lover, and John Orr's book, Point of Origin.

Point of Origin is a fact-based work of fiction by a firefighter in Southern California. Joseph Wambaugh's book describes him as a wanna-be police officer. (This is based on public records).

Several of the fires that occur in Point of Origin are real fires that were set by John Orr. As determined by different juries.

The reason that the "witnesses see" this other man and believe him to be responsible for the fires is because of the time-delay devices that were used in setting the fires. These fires were actually set 15-30 minutes before they broke into flames and discovered. Witnesses were questioned about people in the area immediately prior to the breakout of the fires. The particular types of incendiary devices used are destroyed by either the fire or the extinguishing process.

5 minutes into the movie and the only difference I see between the books and the movie is that the child in the opening scene, with the ice cream cone and his grandmother, (both were killed in the Ole's Home Repair Store fire).

In real life he was only about 3 years old.

For the best version with all details, please see Fire Lover.
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8/10
Stlyzed entertaining thriller that is based on a real incident.
hu67515 September 2008
John Orr (Ray Liotta) is a veteran arson investigator, who's completely professional at his job and he has an sixth sense for placing the origin of suspecting fires. His loyal partner Keith Lang (John Leguizamo) learns from the best from Orr and Lang has joined the task force in the search of the killer. But some of Orr's colleagues and others thinks that Orr knows too much of these crimes... all too-well. To his friends, family members and colleagues that Orr might be the arsonist.

Directed by Newton Thomas Sigel made an terrific, fast paced thriller that is based loosely on a true story. Liotta and Leguizamo gives strong performances in their roles. This movie has an top supporting cast like Colm Feore, Cliff Curtis, Bai Ling, Illeana Douglas, Ronny Cox, Sophia Bush and Rachel Bilson. This movie was made for TV at HBO Films. Sigel's picture is very stylized and it looks like an theatrical movie as well.

DVD has an sharp anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1) transfer and an strong Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. DVD also includes an fairly interesting running commentary track by the director and cast & crew information. Sigel's film is very entertaining.... he keeps everything tight, over the top and short. Certainly worth seeing. (****/*****).
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7/10
The movie is based on a true story
sol-kay10 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
(Slight Spoilers) Deep and penetrating film about the mind of a serial arsonist and how it works with a really great and controlled performance by Ray Liotta as LAFD top arson inspector John Orr.

Checking out a number of arson's in and around the L.A metropolitan area inspector Orr comes to the conclusion that the fires are the work of a single arsonist who's playing deadly a cat and mouse game with the fire and police departments to feed his enormous ego.

As the fires get more and more out of hand with not only burning down stores and houses but also causing fatalities the ATF gets involved in the search for the elusive firebug. This cause friction with the L.A Fire Department who feel that the ATF is nothing but a bunch of Federal bureaucrats who will only get in the way and hamper their investigation in capturing the arsonist.

It slowly comes to mind with the finding of a long forgotten seven year old fingerprint, found at a crime/arson scene, that the arsonist is non other then one of those men in the L.A Fire Department. The LAFD and police as well as the ATF have to do now is not tip off the fireman arsonist to the knowledge that they have a tail on him and are planing to catch him in the act the next time he goes into action.

Very good psychological study that's based on a true story with, besides Ray Liotta, John Leguizamo as Keith Lang extremely effective as Orr's assistant who helps unearth the evidence that put the elusive firebug out in the open. This leads to one of the most unbelievable surrealistic shoot outs ever put on film even though that entire action was just a figment of the crazed arsonists imagination.

The arsonist who, in disguise, is always at the scene of his crime and takes great pleasure in what he did so much so that his huge ego causes him to give the authorities all the evidence that they need to put him away for life.

Writing the "Great American Novel" about the fires that he caused, a work of fiction of course, reveals to the ATF and his fellow members of the L.A Fire Department just who he is and convicts him later in court by proving that he knew things about the fires he wrote in his book that only the arsonist could have possibly known. The arsonist is also a heel when it comes to his marriage with him constantly cheating on his wife by having an affair with a fellow Fire Department worker which in the end has both, wife and lover, see just what an unfeeling selfish and unstable, as well as criminal, person he is.

Very unusual movie that has a lot of dream-like sequences in it to make it's point and even though your kept in the dark at first to who the arsonist is he's revealed with more then half of the movie still left. It's for that reason that makes the film "Point of Origin" that much more interesting. You don't have to figure who he is but you get to see what makes him tick and how he's trapped into tripping himself up by his fellow firefighters.
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7/10
Surprisingly Good
mxs72126 June 2002
This one took me by surprise.. I didn't have high expectations but since Ray Liotta was in it, I thought I'd give it a look. This was a very well done film with some great acting & inspired direction. I think this is based on a true incident which made it even more compelling. Anyway, you should try to catch this one if you can. You won't be disappointed.
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5/10
One of HBO's worst films but still a good time filler.
stn7118627 June 2002
Point of Origin is about a man who starts fires. Ray Liotta is a arcinost and we see some wierd but great visuals of him imagining how the fires start. However, he the other arcinosts believe he started the fires. John Leguizamo plays his partner who tries to prove John (Liotta) did not start the fires. Thats about the whole story. Nothing too exciting. The characters are undeveloped. Ray Liotta's character, we only get a glimpse of his home life and it is so briefly shown that you wonder why they bothered with even those scenes. The music score was aweful, the worst I have ever heard. It made me cringe at times hearing such aweful sounds. THe cinematography is so overdone that at times it is unwatchable. Also, what was up with Illeana Douglas? She has a fairly small part but she is in it enough where we should know who she is but we never know. OK plot, bad characters, BAD cimematography, and BAD BAD BAD score but for some reason it is still watchable but very forgettable. It is suprising to see a movie like this join the list of HBO movies. For sure, this will be on the bottom of the HBO list of movies.
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4/10
Disappointing
lonicelee17 June 2005
Warning: Spoilers
**** Spoilers ****

This movie started out well and was enjoyable until the final 15 minutes. They were convinced John Orr was the arsonist but didn't fill the audience in on exactly how they knew that. And, this other character who was also a fireman was never explained. Another reviewer said all the fires were done via a time delay device but that wasn't what was portrayed when 'the fireman' broke in and tied up the woman in her bathroom. He started the fire then left while the supposed arsonist was making out with his mistress. I was totally confused and the final scene was really crazy. It was if John Orr had a psychic moment where he knew they were coming and imagined how he'd handle it. Yet he did nothing when they actually showed up. There were good parts to this movie but if you are bothered by huge, gaping plot holes, you'll struggle to enjoy the jail scene because your brain will be trying to fill in the holes.
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3/10
A Disappointment
sddavis633 July 2002
Given the high quality of work in both movies and series that HBO usually achieves, I found "Point Of Origin" to be a significant disappointment, with a plot that didn't seem to flow well and what I thought were some poor directorial decisions (particularly the strange way in which the fire sequences were filmed - the sudden jump into high speed action, with shots of traffic and flames.) All that made it difficult to really empathize with the most sympathetic victims of the fires (the child at the beginning of the movie, and the young woman confined in her bathroom while the flames spread.

Ray Liotta put on a decent performance as Glendale arson investigator James Orr, in this true story of the hunt for an arsonist in the Los Angeles area. Orr ends up becoming the prime suspect in the fires, much to the dismay of his former partner (played by Trent Gill), based largely on the discovery of a "fictional" novel he wrote based on the fires (of course, the question becomes whether the book is based on the fires, or whether the fires are based on the book.) Orr is an entirely unsympathetic character, having an affair while still protesting that he loves his wife, expecting both women to stand with him, ignoring his daughters (and coming across as very authoritarian when he's not ignoring them.)

There just wasn't very much in this movie that I found appealing, although it provided a glimpse into the methods used to investigate arson. Frankly, though, I wouldn't recommend it especially highly.

3/10.
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10/10
if anyone can help me out ???
just asking does anyone know where i can get a copy of this movie at???if anyone can give me a link or other ???would be totally appreciated and helpful???cause wants to see this movie,but not sure of where i can get a copy of it?one of my relatives is in this movie and I'm curious on what she did in this movie and how she did as well..she has done some other movies...just not a lot of them. i guess it be curiosity on how things went in this movie for her???i was shocked to find her name out on this site...and saw name of this movie..so know i want to find it,so i can see it and give her a opinion on how she did and looked in it???
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10/10
Very different....(in a good way)
blackcoffeemusic27 June 2002
Very unique! I liked the idea of the main charachter writing a book about the true events. Obviously he was slightly PSHYCO....(Ray Liotta was of course awesome in this part) It held my interest to the very end. The two young actors that played his daughter and her boyfriend were very good. One of HBO's better flicks.
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10/10
one of the best movies on this planet (holywood)
mkteku25 June 2002
beautifully shot, very clever camera usage, full of visual ideas. THIS IS WHAT MAKES A GOOD MOVIE A GREAT ONE. of course the story is important, most of the times is the most important part, but when a film like this comes along... (and this story is not dull at all, it is not what i meant) brilliant!
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10/10
Very well done!!
chldofthe80s23 June 2002
This was a very good movie. The filming techniques were very cool. The ending sort of left you guessing....was John Orr(Ray Liotta) guilty? Some of us thought so, others said he was definitely "set up." We highly recommend this movie to those who enjoy reading a great mystery novel. It's laid out like that only better because you also get all the awesome visual effects!
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