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Original Sin

MGM // R
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Aaron Beierle | posted August 5, 2001 | E-mail the Author
A long-delayed picture (which was also originally not going to be previewed for critics) that was supposed to come out late last Winter, "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 recovers. The remainder has the characters ping-ponging around several uninvolving twists; rather than engaging the audience, the twists have a reverse effect - the slow pacing and heavy atmosphere put the light function on my watch into heavy use.

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. (note: if you're going just for the nudity, save your time and cost of ticket, money and popcorn and rent it.)

Soon after - as many have seen in the trailers - Julia runs off with the majority of her new husband's fortune. Luis begins to suspect that his new bride wasn't who he thought she was in the first place (duh.) and after a lot of pouting about it, he decides to get revenge. American investigator Walter Downs (Thomas Jane of "Deep Blue Sea") happens to be in the area investigating whether or not Julia arrived safely. He then finds himself hired by Luis to track her down, but doesn't seem to provide any help as Luis stumbles across her himself. I didn't believe what happened afterwards, nor did I care as the twists piled up on their way to a ludicrous ending.

Is Julia who she says she is? Why does Downs pop up so often? Do we really care? The answer, at least in my case, was no. Director Michael Cristofer ("Body Shots"), who suprisingly was the at the helm of the movie that brought Jolie to success ("Gia") throws together random editing tricks (such as hilarious overuse of slo-mo) and bland atmosphere to distract the audience from the director's horrid screenplay and the general fact that the movie is headed nowhere quickly. 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.

The performances don't help things much, as none of the actors seem the least bit energetic or passionate about their characters. Banderas is decent, but he's been better elsewhere. Jolie has her moments as well, but her sassy performance in the otherwise terrible "Tomb Raider" was slightly more entertaining. Jane, who made a good action hero in "Deep Blue Sea", is suprisingly mediocre.

...As is the rest of the picture. Cristopher's screenplay provides plenty of unintentional laughs as well as a traffic jam of plot twists that the director himself can't seem to handle. There's little or no tension to the entire thing, misdirected and absurd, a few jolts of desperate visuals failing to interest - or, for that matter, keep a few rows worth of people who'd paid $8.75 from walking out. If I hadn't had to review this misfire (and paid the nearly nine bucks myself), I'd be heading out into the August heat, as well.

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