Sunday, July 11, 2010

Movie Review: Malice

Malice. One of Alec Baldwin's finest performances. A young Nicole Kidman, Bebe Neuwirth going hard with the Boston accent, Anne bancroft looking like shit, George C. Scott with a beard, a babyface Gwyneth Paltrow making a cameo, and Bill Pullman is the nice guy 'mark' in the long con. Oh did I mention Peter Gallagher's eyebrows show up? All of these people showed up and the budget was 20 mil. Who cast this movie and wrangled the agents to agree to the salaries? What an early 90s mash up.

Malice follows the life of Bill Pullman as he is a struggling associate dean at a college, has a wife with ovarian issues, an old high school classmate/genius surgeon for a tenant, is a suspect in a serial rapist case, and still has time to be a nice guy. The man takes down the future "Saw" murderer, seriously, puts pieces together to figure out he's been conned along with a hospital and insurance company, and bluffs his way into capturing a murdering scam artist aka his former wife Nicole Kidman. Tight script written by Aaron Sorkin makes it a rewatchable film. One hole in the film is that if there was a malpractice award and Kidman filed for divorce, Pullman would get a piece. Something I notice seeing it now is how it is shot calmly. I mean clamly as in some scenes have few cuts. Some shots leave both characters visible to see both the speaker and the listener. This is not just a quick cut, close up mash up shooting technique. The acting is good, the lead is likeable, and the performance by Alec Baldwin is his best dramatic work. Watch it please.

Baldwin's agent should go back in time and tell 1993 Alec Baldwin to get in shape. This was his best film as a sexy romantic/dramatic lead. He had classic Hollywood leading man looks, and the acting in this film, voiced entirely in growly whisper, is superb. His monologue in the deposition is fantastic, and nearly as good as the famous Glengarry Glen Ross monologue a year earlier. He is charismatic, evil, controlled, playful and believable as the genius surgeon with a dark side. If Baldwin had stayed in shape a la Sean Connery, Michael Douglas or Harrison Ford, he could have received more leading man-sexy roles. Instead he tubbed up (started here in Malice) and became 'dad' or 'old commander'. Did you know they stretched out Pearl Harbor to include the Doolittle Raid partly because Baldwin wanted more screentime? I know the middle age spread happens to most men, but this seriously changed the arc of his career. This role is the shining star in his career for drama, and even in this film, the seeds for his sidelining were sown. His hairy, spreading midsection, revealed multiple times in the film, would doom him. Alec, how could you do that to yourself? Can't you see an in shape Baldwin being the male lead in Entrapment, instead of the geriatric Connery? Alec, what did you give up?

Check out Malice. It is a nice modern thriller. Pullman's character develops as the movie progresses in a reasonable fashion. It is nice to see good storytelling, good acting and nice camera work all in one film. Considering the deposition scene and the Glengarry Glen Ross scene were 12 months apart, one wonders why Baldwin never made the leap. Look at that hairy thick torso, and one will find the answer.

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