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Overall Rating
3.67

Awesome: 16.67%
Worth A Look60%
Just Average: 6.67%
Pretty Crappy: 6.67%
Sucks: 10%

2 reviews, 18 user ratings


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Malice
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by Jack Sommersby

"Tasty Twists and Fine Filmmaking"
4 stars

A first-rate cast and some good technical credits at the service of an implasusible but engrossing thriller.

Despite some late-in-the-game plot holes that you could drive a truck through, the mystery thriller Malice is a lot of fun and entertaining. The screenplay isn't just a blueprint for an array of twists and turns, but also one with vivid characters in both the starring and supporting ranks that just about jump off the screen. One can't exactly aver that the proceedings are intelligent, but at least they're intelligently rendered -- it's one of those rare cases where the manner is just as essential as the matter, for director Harold Becker and cinematographer Gordon Willis have supplied a delicious neo-noir texture that's enrapturing from start to finish. And what a start! At the Ivy League Westerly College in Massachusetts, a female student rides her bicycle home after class, with disarming chorus music accompanying her (Jerry Goldsmith contributes another great score), and already we'r unnerved by the loud train that passes over her and ominous black clouds in the background -- it's like a Norman Rockwell painting touched up by Rod Sterling. Once inside her house, she's viciously attacked by an assailant, and then the movie cuts to an ambulance rushing her to the hospital, where she's saved by Dr. Jed Hill (Alec Baldwin), a master physician whose first day on the job it is at this hospital. The associate dean of the college, Andy Safian (Bill Pullman), arrives and berates the local detective over this and another female student who was raped a week prior. There's a serial killer on the loose, and the police are stumped. Also figuring into the mix is Tracey (Nicole Kidman), Andy's younger wife who volunteers five days a week in the hospital's pediatric section. It turns out Jed and Andy were in the same class at the same high school; after confiding to Jed that Tracey's been having sporadic, severe abdominal pains, and being that Jed is looking at houses on the market, Andy invites him to rent a room in his historic Victorian home, much to the chagrin of Tracey who seems to have an instant disliking for him. One thing leads to another and soon Andy's suspected of being the killer and a malpractice suit filed against Jed; added to which, parts of Tracey's past start to unravel, revealing quite the opposite picture of the homey housewife who unconditionally loves Andy and adores children. Suffice to say, double crosses and red herrings abound where certain people and things are not quite what they seem.

Screenwriters Aaron Sorkin and Scott Frank have concocted a fine story structure and garnished it with the kind of juicy tidbits that make us feel we're at a real movie rather than an overcomplicated, impersonal piece of claptrap like Memento and The Usual Suspects. We're intrigued by the characters and are thus all the more enticed when their other dimensions make themselves known; and the talented cast digs into their colorful roles with aplomb -- Kidman expertly walks a tightrope between maiden and monster, Pullman wisely doesn't play the meek academic meekly but with nuance and variety, Baldwin is sensational as the egotistical doctor unapologetically afflicted with a God complex (his calm decimation of a hostile lawyer during an arbitration proceeding is lip-smackingly fine), and in just one scene Anne Bancroft does a show-stopping turn as Tracey's drunken mother who's privy to some astonishing secrets. (It's amazing, though, that the movie doesn't credit the fine TV-movie The Operation that came out three years prior, for the story and characters are just about identical.) And guiding everything along with snap and crackle is director Becker, whose previous works (The Onion Field, The Boost) were uneven and didn't come close to hinting at the verve and atmospheric richness in bountiful supply here: working with a virtuoso like The Godfather's Willis must have inspired him, for the visuals are lovingly expressive and eerily suggestive -- it's almost as if Willis had whispered into Becker's ear before each take, "This is what real movies should look and feel like." (There's even a ravishing shot of a sinister-looking house on a seaside cliff during a thunderstorm that manages to escape cliché.) What keeps Malice from being great, though, are some loose ends that aren't satisfactorily resolved. There's some business with an African statuette that's emphasized yet doesn't really come to anything, and it's conveniently forgotten that a litigator pockets a minimum of forty percent of a settlement, making the monetary motivation of two characters a bit muddled. And not only is the serial-killer subplot employed just for a plot device (it's there only so Andy can give a sperm sample to the cops), but you can spot the culprit the second he appears on screen (it would have helped if a less-menacing-looking actor had been cast; this same problem hindered Becker's Sea of Love) Still, the movie is more noteworthy than negligible, with a real knack for suspense and tension and a perceptive sense for not piling on too much pertinent information at one time. Unlike many thrillers, it's a worthy entry in its genre and one you can mostly respect in the morning.

Well worth a DVD rental.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=3569&reviewer=327
originally posted: 10/17/10 20:24:45
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User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell bad boring crap 1 stars
8/10/13 PAUL SHORTT ELABORATE SILLY THRILLER DESPITE GOOD PERFORMANCES 2 stars
10/20/07 Dreamscale Bad, but not terrible. Completely unbelievable script. 2 stars
8/01/05 Ric Highly entertaining thriller with fun, if implausible, plot. Pullman's likeable, as usual. 4 stars
3/02/05 Dr. Lecter Baldwin's "God complex" speech is classic! 4 stars
8/24/04 Agent Sands Kidman is the best bitch since Demi Moore in Disclosure. 5 stars
6/11/04 R.W. Welch Devious plot line is quite a stretch, but holds your interest. 3 stars
8/23/03 Valerie Cameron Forget THE HOURS. Nicole Kidman's best performance is here(& with her real nose to boot!). 5 stars
4/21/03 Joesco Pretty Good - Baldwin should be bigger star - Nicole shows her nice ass but no acting 4 stars
3/02/03 Jack Sommersby Ludicrous but stylish thriller. Kidman is atrocious; Baldwin is sensational. 3 stars
5/17/02 Meredith Harshaw teen movie critic II, find out who really plays the husband of Nicole Kidman's character! 5 stars
2/06/02 Claxner Oxjaw Nicole Kidman at zenith of career before self-destructing in practical magic 5 stars
12/30/01 Monday Morning Very well done. 4 stars
11/24/01 Mathias ÷sterman Nice thriller 4 stars
11/03/01 Aleecia Nicole Kidman looked like a frizzhead! Alec B-HOT! 1 stars
11/03/01 Hunter A lot of hoopla, trailer candy but no money!!! 1 stars
2/13/01 Jake Very entertaining. Gwyneth Paltrow even had a cameo. She looked hot. 4 stars
2/13/00 Kimberly Murphy-Smith Extremely engrossing thriller. Baldwin is brilliant--perhaps his best performance. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  29-Sep-1993 (R)

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