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The Cranky Critic® reviews:poster

Dangerous Beauty

Starring Catherine McCormack and Rufus Sewell; Oliver Platt
Screenplay by Jeanine Dominy
Based on the book "The Honest Courtesan" by Margaret Rosenthal
Directed by Marshall Herskovitz

IN SHORT:  Catherine McCormack is gorgeous. All else is painless.

Journey with us now to a time in history when Venice (now in Italy) was a potent political power in the Mediterranean, and not just a place for tourists to lounge in the gondolas that float on the sewage infested canals of today. It is the 16th century, where the rich are fabulously wealthy, the middle class cater to them, and the poor keep out of sight a couple of canals down.

It was a time and place where wives kept their place and men paid for sex (as a matter of course) since the aforementioned wives were intentionally kept dumb and pregnant. The beauty of our story, Veronica Franco (Catherine McCormack), had the poor luck to be born into a family which could not pay the dowry needed to marry her to the upperclass Marco (Rufus Sewell). Her hands "too fine to be a scullery maid," there is only one way for Veronica to make her way in the world. Prostitution.

Here's the double standard of the time, folks. The "courtesan" was allowed to read and to be educated, in short, she could do everything a man could, as well as provide the obvious sensual pleasures. She is privy to the most intimate sequences of the ruling classes of the City, and of the Holy Roman church which means all the wives hate her and the noblemen fear her -- she knows too much. When Venice finds itself on the verge of war, well let's just say that an alliance with the French depends more on flesh than political reasons.

It's a real fine line that Dangerous Beauty toes. It could have relied solely on the age old upper vs. lower class story of forbidden love. It could have toileted as a feminist diatribe. It tries to be all things and almost pulls it off. We see what happens to middle class boys in the same circumstances as Veronica. Maffio (Oliver Platt) becomes the court buffoon, tossing free rhymes off the tops of his head and getting even drunker than his Lord. Veronica is the only one who can top him at his game. She's also a better swordsman than he and is the only male Veronica refuses to sleep with. You know where this is going but you won't know how it happens until just before it does.

Dangerous Beauty is a most enjoyable tangle of the sexes, with clothes both on and off. It's a romance in which forbidden love finds the only way to occur. It's a comedy of class, 'cuz Veronica is smarter by half than any of the men she's taking coin to service. It looks great. It's got an undercurrent of violence running through it, even when the sex is onscreen. Catherine McCormack works her way through the movie with a twinkle in her eye, and it is not until the last scenes that she unleashes her phenomenal political power.

Unfortunately, this last sequence is one which you will recognize from one of the biggest flicks of last year, or from one of this season's Hercules episodes. When it happens a most pleasant experience turns cold.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for Dangerous Beauty, he would have paid . . .

$5.00

Looked good. Less filling and, despite the ending, Cranky liked it.

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