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Tucson Weekly Film Clips

NOVEMBER 10, 1997: 

A LIFE LESS ORDINARY. The third film from the team that brought us Trainspotting and Shallow Grave has the same startling sense of composition and color as these previous efforts, but none of the wit. Ewan McGregor plays a poor janitor who falls in love with a beautiful rich girl (Cameron Diaz) due to the influence of some bizarre angel-creature-things. The film lurches from fantasy to romance to road movie without rhyme or reason; even worse, the Boy and Girl don't even seem to like each other, much less light up each other's lives. If you crossed the 1932 Hollywood romance It Happened One Night with Touched by an Angel and stirred in a little bit of Tommy and then doubled your dose of Prozac, then you'd be watching A Life Less Ordinary. The question is, why would anyone want to do this? --Richter

RED CORNER. After a one night stand that finds his Chinese lover dead and her blood on his shirt, an American lawyer on business in China gets inserted into the Chinese penal and judicial systems. Trapped like a gerbil stuck in an unfamiliar dark maze from which there's no escape, the cocky businessman, played by Richard Gere's stylishly tousled hair, must rely on his wits and his plucky female Chinese lawyer to save his life. The movie's vision of China is like Steve Martin's old stand-up routine on France: everything is different there! The courts aren't like ours, cameras everywhere spy on the populace, and sometimes people with butcher knives chop the heads off chickens! The conspiracy is a recycled one and the characterizations are wafer thin, but fans of Richard Gere's buttocks may find solace in a couple of seconds of his nude backside as he is tossed into a prison cell. --McKay

SWITCHBACK. Jeb Stuart, the scribe behind such moneymakers as Die Hard and The Fugitive, directed this low-key but reasonably good thriller based on one of his early screenplays. The plot, which leads from Texas to the beautiful, snow-clogged Rocky Mountains, has an FBI agent (Dennis Quaid, sad-eyed and brooding) tracking the serial killer who kidnapped Quaid's son. Action-movie clichés abound, but Switchback has a surprisingly honorable feel to it; all the main characters, even (inexplicably) the villain, are granted heavy doses of sympathy and integrity. Danny Glover and Jared Leto are interesting as an unlikely pair of travelers (one of whom may be the killer); but the best is R. Lee Ermey as a scrupulous sheriff. Ermey, best known as the sergeant in Full Metal Jacket, has been cool in nearly everything he's done. --Woodruff

A TOUCH OF EVIL. This great, 1958 classic crime thriller directed by Orson Welles features one of the most famous, continuous tracking shots in Hollywood history--a three-minute crane shot running under the opening credits. Based on Whit Masterson's novel, Badge of Evil, the film was a box-office flop in its time and was reviled as a glaring example of the worst cinematic sleaze. Of course, it's widely loved now for the same reasons. This tale of good and evil in a corrupt, decaying border town features all of the exaggerated characters and moody, technical tricks of which Orson Welles was such a master. Starring Charleton Heston, Janet Leigh and Orson Welles' lumbering girth. --Richter


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