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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Original Sin Unrated
Original Sin Unrated
MGM // Unrated // March 26, 2002
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted March 9, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

(movie review written in 2001)

A long-delayed picture that was supposed to come out late last Winter (note: the DVD box even states 2000 instead of 2001), "Original Sin" takes an excellent cast and starts off looking like it might go somewhere. The film reaches a point where it seems primed to take off and then doubles back on itself and never really recovers. The remainder has the characters ping-ponging around several uninvolving twists; rather than engaging the audience, the twists have a reverse effect.

The story goes something like this: it's 1882 in Cuba. Luis Vargas (Antonio Banderas) is waiting at the docks for his mail-order bride from the States, named Julia Russell. When she finally arrives, she is much more beautiful than he was lead to believe - he is also much wealthier than she was lead to believe. After pleasantries about what liars both are are exchanged, the two head off to be married. He's even gentleman enough to tell her that she can join him when she feels comfortable. 5 minutes later, the two are quite comfortable in bed with one another, revealing a good deal of skin. The appearance of a detective named Downs (Thomas Jane) and eventually, Julia's sister, leads to a reveal and the next step in the story, shortly before it spins unexpectedly back around on itself, proving that the Bandaras character isn't that bright.

There's a certain hint of knowledge that the picture occasionally displays about what it is; a character is watching a play that she calls "cheap melodrama". Yet, while there are a few good laughs scattered throughout the film, there are far more bad ones that stem mainly from director Michael Cristofer ("Body Shots")'s awful screenplay, which piles absurd plot twist upon ridiculous plot twist, creating a traffic jam of he hates her, he likes her, he hates her, he likes her that becomes tiring.

The performances really don't help matters much. Jolie and Banderas are fine actors, but they seem to be aware of the kind of dialogue they're asked to offer and, as a result, neither really throws themselves into their character. This is especially dissapointing in Jolie's case, after her sassy performance in "Tomb Raider"; this character could have used a bit of that same sort of attitude. Thomas Jane provides a pretty terrible performance as Downs, overacting embarassingly.

Cristofer's film makes a decision to head for slow atmosphere rather than tension and that's what really makes the film suffer. With the slow pacing and underdeveloped characters, the wave of plot twists that wash over the audience in the second half of the film become tougher and tougher to care about. This is one of those films where characters don't act like actual humans - instead, they are yanked around by what the plot requires of them and, in this case those actions are ridiculous more often than not.

Cinematography is passable, providing some attractive shots of the beautiful locations, but looking flat on other occasions. The score is satisfactory as well, but overdoes it at times. Cristopher tries all sorts of oddball editing and camera tricks to interest the audience, but these instances either seem unnecessary, excessive or just plain silly. This really could have been a good movie, but the final product is the cinematic version of one of those trashy novels that you see in the checkout line at the supermarket.

Note: There are two editions of the DVD; one is an unrated edition that runs 118 minutes and the other is an R-rated theatrical version that runs 112 minutes. Although it's been several months since I saw this picture in theaters, I do believe I noticed a few slight additions - noticable, but nothing that major. Note that the R-Rated DVD also does not contain the supplements of the Unrated Edition.


VIDEO: Before I'd started in with "Original Sin", I had just finished watching MGM's upcoming DVD release of "Bandits". Pleased with the picture quality of that film, I called it one of the studio's better recent offerings in terms of picture quality. "Original Sin", presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen (thankfully, no pan & scan edition is included.), is an even more impressive and consistent presentation that I found exceptional. Sharpness and detail are excellent, as the picture took on a smooth, film-like feel that looked terrific, even in low-light scenes.

The picture remained almost free of flaws. Edge enhancement was not present and only the slightest trace of pixelation was seen once or twice. The print used seemed quite clean for the most part; a few scenes showed some minor specks, but these were isolated incidents. Colors remained rich, warm and vibrant throughout the picture, appearing well-saturated and flawless. This is a terrific transfer from MGM that's quite exceptional in all regards.

SOUND: MGM presents "Original Sin" in Dolby Digital 5.1. The film's soundtrack isn't that remarkable, but there are a few noteworthy sequences scattered throughout the movie that liven the film's audio a bit, such as the celebration towards the middle, where the noises of the festival and the chatter of the crowd are offered in a full and crisp manner by the surrounds. The surrounds also provide the score at times, as well. Dialogue remained clear and natural and there were a few instances of decent bass, as well. Although a bit of additional ambient sounds during some scenes would have been nice, this is a satisfactory soundtrack.

MENUS: MGM has provided suprisingly elegant and beautiful film-themed animated menus for the DVD.


Trailers: The film's original theatrical trailer (which is actually quite a good trailer, I think - it makes the movie look at least moderately exciting) is included, as well as a trailer for the current Bruce Willis flick "Hart's War".

Commentary: This is a commentary from writer/director Michael Cristopher. It's a fairly decent track, as Cristopher starts off by nicely discussing the history of the project, talking about how the stars became involved when the project was originally at a different studio. The rest of the commentary does occasionally turn into narration of what's happening on-screen and pauses of silence, but there are some interesting production stories and details. A decent commentary.

Also: Photo gallery and music video by Gloria Estefan, "You Can't Walk Away From Love".

Final Thoughts: While I strangely disliked "Original Sin" slightly less the second time around, I still think it's a pretty big dissapointment, with little chemistry between its stars and a screenplay that is often unintentionally silly. MGM's Unrated DVD edition though, is actually quite good, with solid audio/video quality and a few decent supplements. Those who are fans of the picture will likely want to pick up this unrated edition, but I'd recommend that those who haven't seen it and are interested should rent it first, but go in with very low expectations.

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