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Monday, February 26, 2007

The Better to See You With, My Dear 2/26

I saw a movie again last night that I like but really shouldn't. It's no Ghost Rider, but it does have just enough wrong with it that it really doesn't belong on a favorites list. Certainly not mine. And, yet, there it is.

The January Man (1989)

(I'm not crazy about IMDb's plot synopsis, so I'll do it myself.) Someone is killing women in their apartments at the rate of one per month. There is no connection between the victims other than that they were strangled with a blue ribbon. Mayor Flynn (Rod Steiger) insists that Police Commissioner Frank Starkey (Harvey Keitel) re-instate his genius brother Nick (Kevin Kline), whom Frank had fired two years earlier under suspicion of graft. This does not go over too well with Nick, now working as a fireman, because he greatly resents his successful brother both for firing him and for marrying Nick's ex-girlfriend (Susan Sarandon). Nor does it please Nick's former captain (Danny Aiello) who regards Nick as little more than a troublesome beatnik. Nick agrees to come back and tracks down the killer with the help of his painter neighbor (Alan Rickman) and the mayor's daughter (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), who was friends with the last victim.

Okay, you see the names: Kline, Keitel, Aiello, Sarandon, Steiger, Mastrantonio, and Rickman.
The script is by John Patrick Shanley, playwright of Savage in Limbo and Doubt and screenwriter of Moonstruck.
So, why isn't this a better movie? Well, director Pat O' Connor doesn't really have a stellar track record, but it's not a list of stinkers, either.
Mostly, I think that the movie is miscast. Now, each of these actors is good enough that they can be horribly miscast and still create a believable, three-dimensional character, but they're stretching. And, since they're all stretching, this movie definitely has a tension to it. Thankfully, there are enough funny lines and situations to relieve the tension. Rickman and Kline are memorable in their roles, and you tend to forgive everyone else because their efforts are evident. However, there are a few major goofs that the genius detective makes: First, the number "1" isn't technically a prime number, and, second, the "anti-strangle" device he develops is shaped in such a way that the ribbon would just slide up to the top and still strangle the victim. (Yeah, I'm a bit of a nerd at times, I know.)
I like this movie, I do. I just don't know why. Tell you what: Rent it on DVD and see if you don't have a similar reaction.
On a side note, John Patrick Shanley also wrote and directed another of my inexplicable faves, Joe Versus the Volcano.
In the interest of increasing the "interactiveness" (I may have just made that word up) of this blog, why don't you click on the comments section and share some of your favorite "bad" movies? Oh, come on! It'll be fun.

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