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NewCityNet Film Tip of the Week

"A Perfect Murder."

By Ray Pride

JUNE 8, 1998: 

With a story drawn from the same play as Hitchcock's desultory "Dial M for Murder," Andrew Davis washes away much of the bad aftertaste from his last two pictures, "Chain Reaction" and "Steal Little, Steal Big." Michael Douglas plays Stephen Taylor, one of those glinty-eyed New York Michael Douglas-type titans of the financial universe; Gwyneth Paltrow is Emily, his much-younger trophy tyke. She's having an affair with painter Viggo Mortensen, all chiseled features and mumbly "I love yous." The story is played at its most elemental: Fucking and power, position and helplessness, and moves faster than "The Fugitive"'s runaway train. Davis' best films boast clickety-clack editing that does not pause, slashing to the fundamental gesture or snip of information. Authenticity of place and space is Davis' other consistent virtue, and he transposes his knack for Chicago locations to New York City locations (he's a master of the establishing shot). Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski's eye provides sultry-shadowed, saturated-color menace. Interior light palliates the rich furnishings of the Taylors' uptown co-op, a luxe of lived-in splendor. And there's not a frame of "Godzilla" that comes close to Davis' location work, with nocturnal shots mostly oil-blue with sheets of shimmering water falling onto black night. The story is a pinnacle of slickness, but the visuals are consistently smart and pungent: Surprised one lunch hour by Douglas, Paltrow is ushered into the back of his limousine, and her face is trapped by the diagonal-latticework reflections of a symmetrical building above. The trapping of the characters behind atmosphere grids is persistent: a parking garage door, shadows from elevator cages, a decoratively cracked glass wall the camera darts behind as Paltrow settles into a soapy tub. And the bursts of color: a white robe geysered with arterial spurt, red footprints on marble floors.

(Ray Pride)

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