Gone Dark
Screen Media Films // R // $26.98 // June 1, 2004
Review by John Sinnott | posted May 13, 2004
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The Movie:

In his book Hype and Glory screenwriter William Goldman (Princess Bride, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) talks about movies that just don't work out.  There are some movies that will have a great cast and crew but when they are finished, they are much worse than one would expect.  In the book he mentions a few films that this has happened to.  He could add Gone Dark to the list; a movie with some very good actors, and a talented director that should be much better than it is.

May Markham (Lauren Bacall) is an old lady who lives in an apartment by herself.  She's awoken one night by a loud noise, what turns out to be a gun shot that kills her neighbor Denny (Henry Czerny.)  It's not clear if it is a case of murder of suicide.  Denny's girlfriend, Monica Pierce (Claire Forlani,) runs into May soon after Denny's death, and the two have coffee.  As it turns out, Monica is an undercover cop who has infiltrated a drug ring.  While she's gotten close to the boss, she's also gotten hooked on heroin.  Denny had some evidence that could break up the drug syndicate, or it could possibly implicate Monica in a murder.  With his death those incriminating items have turned up missing, and Monica desperately wants them.  But when May finds a package addressed to Denny was accidentally delivered to her apartment, should she give it to the frantic Monica?

This had the potential to be a suspenseful, engrossing movie, but it just doesn't quite get there.  The story is told in a nonlinear fashion, jumping forwards and backwards through time revealing different parts of the plot as it goes.  While this did work well at the beginning, jumpstarting the movie right away and filling in the details later, it also was the films greatest weakness.  The constant jumping of the narrative made it hard to get to know any of the characters.  You think the movie will focus on one person, and then they disappear for ten minutes.  That makes it hard to feel sympathy or even care what happens to them.  The plot was fairly straightforward, but it seemed very mysterious because of the way the story was told.  The problem was that it drew the various subplots out too long.  The main mystery at the beginning of the film is whether or not Monica is evil.  It took so long to get an answer to that question, with several other mysteries popping up along the way, that by the time it does get answered, I really didn't care anymore.

Another problem that I had with the movie was the ending.  Without giving anything away, it seemed to me that the author had painted himself into a corner and couldn't find a way out.  While the movie does have a definitive ending (I've always disliked those "what do you think happens next" endings) I thought they took the cheap way out.

The acting was very good for the most part.  Lauren Bacall did an excellent job, as usual.  She was very convincing as an older woman who gets caught up in a dangerous situation but manages to keep her cool.  Her sense of humor and stately attitude really make the picture.  The scenes with her in it were much more interesting than the scenes without her.
Claire Forlani was pretty good, but her voice is a little too whiney for the character she played.  When she's telling a drug dealer why he's only getting half the money that he was expecting, it sounds like she's holding back tears instead of being as tough as steel.  Otherwise she does a good job, especially when she was playing a strung out addict.
I could tell that director Lewin Webb really tried with this movie, but just couldn't quite make it appealing.  The visual style and tone were very nice, but the story was just too much of a mess.  Webb did include some nice touches included interesting transitions between scenes.  He would often focusing on a bright light until it fills the screen and then quickly fades it to revel the new setting.  While it wasn't the first time such a transition was filmed, he used it to good effect.

The DVD:


There is a choice between stereo and 5.1 audio tracks on this DVD.  I viewed the movie with the surround sound and it did an adequate job.  The gunshots were forceful and the music was clear.  The dialog was easy to understand, and there was no hiss or distortion.


The anamorphic widescreen video was fairly nice.  The colors were a little muted, but the detail was fine and the contrast was good.  There was a little bit of cross coloration in the backgrounds of a couple of scenes, and just a little bit of aliasing, but not a significant amount.  Overall this was a nice looking DVD.

The Extras:

There is really only one extra on this DVD:  a reel of interviews with the cast.  This half hour featurette starts with all of the major actors talking about their character and giving their thoughts about the film.  After that there are a series of on the set shots, watching the cast and crew film the movie.

Final Thoughts:

While this isn't a bad film, it really isn't great either.  The acting was very good, but the plot lines dragged out for too long and it was hard to become interested in the fates of any of the characters.  Rent it.

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