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IN SHORT: Smokin'
If you've read Cranky for a while, you know that one of the things he really enjoys is a movie written with a lot of different levels. Especially when those levels fit together well. Cranky would have loved to be a fly on the wall when Josh and Jonas Pate pitched their story of a murder suspect who gets an interrogating detective to put on polygraph harness.
Yeah, right. Let's leave reality at the door for a few moments, shall we?
The film up on the screen is called Deceiver which features a nail you to the wall performance by Tim Roth as the accused. Michael Rooker and Chris Penn are the detectives who administer the lie detector test not once or twice, but day after day for four or five days. There's a lot of really good stuff here folks, not only the kind that film students drink cappucino and smoke cigarettes over. Real meat and potatoes movie making. The kind that looks good and settles real nice. There's a bit or two of film student excess but overall it's a real satisfying meal.
John Walter Wayland (Roth) is the heir to an incredible fortune - - mom and dad are still alive, don't get ahead of me -- and doesn't have a care in the world to do anything that could be considered productive. He doesn't work. He gambles. He hangs with prostitutes. He gets ripped on absinthe, a greenish liquor which is apparently nastier than anything Cranky's gotten ripped on in lots of years of getting ripped. Don't ask. Problem is, Wayland suffers from temporal lobe epilepsy and his liquid jones aggravates the problem. When his body goes into seizure, one touch kicks up a beastly spate of the ol' ultraviolence. Simply put, Wayland is a nasty piece of work.
Trying to take him down is Detective Kennesaw (Rooker) a 20 year veteran, full of confidence on the job, and lacking the same in his marital bed. His partner, Braxton (Penn) is an ex-security guard with a tenth of the experience and a nasty gambling habit which has him twenty grand in the hole to an evil woman called Mook (Ellen Burstyn). Mook is connected, one way or another, to almost all the characters who move across screen in a Fu Manchu kind of way. If the connection is not direct, it's not more than a shared connection away and it sets up the big payoff at the end of the flick.
Which brings us back to the murder. A local prostitute (Renee Zellweger) is chopped in two. The pieces of her body are found miles apart. The only clue is Wayland's phone number, found in her pocket and a documented relationship between the two, documented in flashbacks of their parting through the absinthe high.
That's more than enough story to work with. What works superbly is Tim Roth's arrogant and manipulative performance. His Wayland knows his epilepsy drugs will keep him calm enough to beat the machine, but he wants to beat the system 'cuz he's rich and that's what the rich do. Then again, he may be innocent. The Pate brothers have written a great script but as directors they don't support their actors. Michael Rooker gets angry and sweats profusely and that's all that's expected. Chris Penn looks like the overweight blue collar cop that he is. Penn he gets more to work with as the cop stuck in the middle of a battle of wills.
Roth, I'll say it again, is superb.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for Deceiver, he would have paid . . .
Rene Zellweger and Rosanna Arquette as the blondes at the center of the maelstrom set you up real good. Ellyn Burstyn as the Svengali at the center is even better. That's all I'll say.
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