Movie Review by Toby White
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Angelina Jolie, Thomas Jane
Director: Michael Cristofer
One of the most frustrating things about cinema-going has to be the crushing sense of disappointment one feels when, after looking forward to seeing a film (whether either ignoring or absorbing the hype), ten minutes in, one is hit with the realisation it is going to be – for want of a better word – crap. I could cite a number of well-known films as examples – but on the advice of my friends I try to spare myself these 2-hour time-wasters (although this might be sadistic entertainment in itself). But I ramble. ORIGINAL SIN is one of these. My editor asked me what the film was like? I couldn’t answer at first. “Cheap” was a word that sprang to mind but then it is fairly big budget. How about “trite”? “Corny”? Better. In short, the best way to describe it is to offer the reaction of my peers during the screening. They laughed – and in bits that weren’t meant to be funny.
Set in late 19 th century Cuba, ORIGINAL SIN is about Luis Vargas (Antonio Banderas), a wealthy coffee merchant with everything who, experimenting with love (which is the one thing he has not), takes for his wife, Julia Russell (Angelina Jolie), who he has only met through correspondence. Tenuous, if intriguing, from the start. But she doesn’t turn out to be the blushing bride he thought she was. Now there’s a surprise. When Vargas is approached by a private investigator, sent by Julia’s sister, it transpires she has been evading a shady past involving theft, deception and murder. When Julia does a runner with Vargas’ cash, he, driven by his love for her, pursues her across the country to get some answers and win back his bride. His obsession leads to a dramatic showdown with tragic consequences.
In all fairness, the plot points that carry you through this film should create tension but the overall execution (by writer-director Michael Cristofer) is more mock melodrama than genuine suspense. While not being totally predictable (and there are some genuine nuggets here) the script is, generally, terribly contrived; the twists are not twists at all but turns (in that you-kind-of-saw-it-coming-but-not-exactly-like-that way) and the performances are far too over the top. What summarises the whole film is the ridiculous and inappropriate use of slow motion. Given that it’s hard to take the film seriously, whenever the aforementioned ‘nuggets’ occur (and there’s a terrific scene where Vargas catches up with Julia) these tend to be overwhelmed by the overall notion you’re just not convinced by the story. Throughout the film you find yourself asking how you’re supposed to be reacting to this……just laugh, really.