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Blind Side
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by Jack Sommersby

"Another Underwhelming Thriller"
2 stars

A capable cast and director are ultimately undone by a script that makes as much sense as a Gaelic cookbook read backwards.

"Suspension of disbelief" can sometimes be a chore for a critic in gauging whether it should be applied to a particular movie saddled with an implausible screenplay. Logic loopholes and behavior inconsistencies can greatly undermine a movie when we're intended to take the story with the utmost seriousness (Sidney Lumet's The Verdict, Adrian Lyne's Fatal Attraction); other times, in movies intended as fables directed with considerable imagination and panache we're more than willing to overlook the implausibility factor (Brian De Palma's Blow Out, David Lynch's Blue Velvet). The HBO Pictures release Blind Side, a psychological thriller with a first-rate cast, starts out believably but eventually becomes so ludicrous that I don't think anyone would be willing to cut it a break in the suspension-of-disbelief department. It's not badly made, but the mediocre screenplay-by-committee (three writers are credited) eventually undermines the fine technical contributions and renders the overall whole as something hopelessly juvenile that only a nine-year-old could even halfway buy into. Too bad, because Rebecca De Mornay and Ron Silver are persuasive as Lynn and Doug Kaines, a happily married couple with a successful high-end furniture business and a baby due in six months; to cut labor costs they've decided to relocate their manufacturing plant to a coastal Mexico city, and while driving back to San Diego at night from a three-day excursion there they accidentally strike a man with their vehicle who's wandered into the middle of a rural road. Not only is the man clearly dead, but upon inspection of the body Doug finds a police badge affixed to the shirt. What to do? The man can't be saved, and Lynn, who was driving, would surely serve several years in a Mexican jail even though it was an accident, Doug argues. They wash off the blood from the vehicle that now has a damaged front grill and manage to make it back over the border without further incident. While remorseful over the man's death, Doug again concludes there was nothing they could do to save the man so reporting the accident would only result in trouble. They resume their everyday lives, and everything seems copacetic until a handsome blonde man turns up at their doorstep calling himself Jake Shell (Rutger Hauer), requesting a job as a salesman at their store, and making mention that he's just come back from the very same Mexican city that the Kaines have returned from. Doug turns him down, and Jake starts showing up at the store anyway and constantly parks his camper truck right outside the Kaines's upscale residence while still insisting on a job. Is Jake in fact nefarious, or are the Kaines being paranoid?

For a while the New Zealand director Geoff Murphy, whose eclectic resume includes the Western sequel Young Guns II and the sci-fi action picture Freejack, gives the numerous indoor talking-heads scenes some sustained tension and more visual variety than a veteran taking-heads-scenes director probably could. His sense of pacing is assured, the scene transitions are adroit, and the occasional eye-catching camerawork punctuates rather than punctures the proceedings (my favorite shot is an extreme close-up of a numeral on a living room clock that's loudly chiming while Jake is passed out on the living-room floor and Doug is snooping around in Jake's truck). Murphy has the gift of film language, and he gives Blind Side a great deal more professionalism than it deserves. So do the actors. The always-welcome De Mornay gave star-making performances in Risky Business and And God Created Woman, yet superstardom has eluded her. A real shame. Just watch her in the scene where Lynn gets a glimpse of the bloodied head of the cop she's struck -- the horror and revulsion she conveys is palpable. And later on when Lynn is both suspicious of and somewhat attracted to Jake, De Mornay's blending of emotional tones is communicatively lucid. Silver, whose spectacular villainous portrayal in Blue Steel went unfairly unnoticed, does his job, too, never resorting to cheap machismo. As for Hauer, he doesn't exactly outdo himself but doesn't dawdle, either. The duplicitous Jake has to be charismatically taking and creepily insinuating, and if Hauer can't make the forceful impression De Mornay and Silver do it's because his is the role with the fewest underpinnings; Jake's ulterior motive is vague even into the final sections, so Hauer has to exude a mysterious air while staying within the character's ill-defined parameters, and on this basis Hauer is passable though it's more or less a pale retread of his antagonist in the superior The Hitcher. And there's a strong assist from Jonathan Banks, typically cast as a heavy, as the Kaines's concerned attorney. But what hokum we're asked to swallow! How Jake with no beforehand information has located both the state and city of the Kaines, we don't know; the address of both their house and place of business, we don't know. His slithery self makes his way into the Kasines' home with relative ease either because the doors aren't locked or the locks aren't changed. Gunshots inside their residence never result in the neighbors calling the cops. Jake turns down a thirty-thousand-dollar bribe to disappear because selling furniture is more rewarding? And a bombastic finale involving vodka, fire and a hot tub has to be seen to be disbelieved. Blind Side, a movie for people who base all logicality off a Ouija board.

The DVD offers up okay video and audio with a decent amount of production notes.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=26626&reviewer=327
originally posted: 03/29/14 20:35:49
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  30-Jan-1993 (R)



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