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Final Analysis
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by Jack Sommersby

"Hoary Hitchcock Homage"
2 stars

Another pyschological thriller that came out the same year, "Basic Instinct," was also flawed, but at least it had some vroom and didn't take itself so seriously.

There's nothing really wrong with Final Analysis that some common sense and a good editor couldn't cure -- or, to be more precise, a good editor who the director would have allowed to prune this overlong mess by at least fifteen to twenty minutes. Scripted by Wesley Strick, who penned the superb courtroom thriller True Believer, and directed by Phil Joanou, who helmed the impressive gangster tale State of Grace, the movie, which involves both the courtroom and a gangster, is blatantly patterned after several Alfred Hitchcock classics, with an occasional neat touch along the way. But it's still nothing more than pulpy material, and Strick, whose scenes become redundant after the one-hour mark, and Joanou, who lays on lushly-romantic stylistics from the very get-go and never pulls back, treat it as if it were considerably more, and their collective naivety is embarrassing. That extraordinary cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth, of Cutter's Way and Blade Runner, has pulled out all the stops in making this San Francisco-set thriller a feast for the eyes: every scene, every shot is bathed, sometimes smothered, with so much golden light that the whole thing is downright ethereal at times, and we keep waiting for more contextual substance to justify all this top-heavy treatment -- when the ending credits finally get around to rolling, we're still waiting.

It helps that Richard Gere stars, because he does some of his best understated work as high-profile psychiatrist Isaac Barr, who becomes involved with two beautiful blonde sisters who soon make his life hell: Diana (Uma Thurman), a semi-obsessive-compulsive who he's having weekly sessions with; and Heather (Kim Basinger), who starts meeting with Isaac after hours to discuss an incestuous relationship Diana had with their now-deceased father when she was a teen, and which Diana hasn't wanted to discuss with Isaac. Isaac and Heather eventually start a torrid affair even though she's married to a rather unsavory Greek Orthodox hood, Jimmy (Eric Roberts), who's currently under investigation by the Justice Department for racketeering. Throw in something called "pathological intoxication" (which Heather is afflicted with that causes her to get out of control after just a couple of sips of alcohol), a two-million-dollar life-insurance policy (belonging to an otherwise-financially-depleted Jimmy), and heaping helpings of double crosses and murder (what would a Hitchcockian movie be without them?), and you've got an overall product that works only sporadically, and unintentionally amuses more often that that, especially in a ludicrous Vertigo-like grand finale with people dangling from a decrepit lighthouse on a stormy night with monstrous crashing waves a couple of hundred feet below.

Apart from the countless contrivances and telegraphed relevancies, Strick's screenplay is too episodic and bereft of a well-constructed structure -- many of the scenes prolong, rather than progress, the plot; and right when things threaten to heat up, the plot gets slowed down by mundane talking-heads scenes explaining things we've already digested. We're not asking for anything bombastically frenetic (which we do get in spades during the finale), but something with semblances of narrative drive and alacrity. Final Analysis doesn't have the compactness of a genuine thriller, and it could be that Strick is overreaching, piling on too much for fear he's giving us too little; and what he does garnish the proceedings with are often facile, like the cut-rate Freudian aspects and an initially-intelligent hero who becomes quite slow on the uptake later in the game so the story, when at a perfectly logical stopping point, can continue, and quite implausibly, at that. And Joanou, who's displayed fluidity in his previous works, is left hamstrung trying to move this piece of sludge along, like a race horse constantly being reined in by its bought-off jockey. Much of the time the flashy camerawork strives too hard at being arresting, and many of the compositions are cramped -- shooting in a non-widescreen ratio, Joanou uses too many close-ups, and when any two characters are conversing, the actors are blocked so they're in the middle of the frame, with very little visual information on the sides. (Haunted house tales should feel this claustrophobic!)

Gere and Basinger do have some chemistry (as they did in the superb No Mercy six years prior), and they do share in a fairly erotic sex scene; but in the second half Gere can only feign befuddlement so many times, and Basinger, in femme fetale mode, doesn't have the concentrated force needed. Roberts always tries something new, but his character has been so crudely conceived there's not a moment we're glad he's around. But there are juicy bits by Paul Guilfoyle, as a sarcastic defense lawyer, and Robert Harper, as a nervous psychiatrist who damn near comes apart on the witness stand. (Sadly, Keith David, usually a stalwart, overacts as a frustrated detective.) Good film-noirs of the 1940s and '50s, including some of Hitchcock's stuff, where the hero found himself pulled into a web of sex and violence, did this kind of thing way better, and at a running time thirty minutes shorter -- they knew their place and didn't get all grandiose on us with psychobabble and grandiose overstatement. Final Analysis piles on the Hitchcock references without ever carving out an identity of its own, and is unable to work up the energy to help glide over its inconsistencies. It's one wan homage.

Give the Gere/Basinger "No Mercy" a look-see instead.

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originally posted: 05/01/12 23:36:59
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USA
  27-Feb-1992 (R)
  DVD: 01-Jun-2004

UK
  N/A

Australia
  26-Mar-1992


Directed by
  Phil Joanou

Written by
  Wesley Strick

Cast
  Richard Gere
  Kim Basinger
  Uma Thurman
  Eric Roberts
  Keith David



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