Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) has one day and one day only to prove himself to his new partner Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington) a 13-year vet of the LAPD narcotics division. Harris' years of hardcore experience on Los Angeles' meanest streets though have turned him into the same sort of criminal he's supposed to be putting away. At first it seems Harris intends to teach Hoyt his own brand of justice: that in order to catch the big fish sometimes officers must throw the smaller ones back. But as the hours slip away Hoyt learns just how bad his badass partner really is--Harris starts out as a taunting joker who just wants to give Hoyt a hard time but by nightfall he's turned into a full-blown monster bent on saving his own skin no matter what.
This two-man show is really a one-man show. It's Washington's game all the way as he bursts the almost priestly bubble of do-goodness that has surrounded him like a halo for most of his career with a sudden murderous burst of gunfire. In Day he is larger than life; clad in black leather and huge jewelry he towers both physically and psychologically over a scrawny goateed Hawke (looking like he just walked off the Reality Bites set) who tries valiantly to keep up with his Oscar-winning co-star. It's not that a perfectly wet-behind-the-ears Hawke doesn't adequately carry off the acting required for the situation he's in but really we're supposed to believe he hold his own in a fistfight-turned-deathmatch against guys more than twice his size? For his part Washington chews the scenery like it was his last meal as Alonzo goes from bad to worse but he sure makes it look fun.
Director Antoine Fuqua (Bait) used to direct music videos for artists like Coolio and it shows. Love the cool camera angles the warped POV shots the primary colors and raw soundtrack. And Fuqua's not afraid to show the L.A. streets at their worst. The first two-thirds are masterful work in character study as the line between good and evil becomes increasingly blurred. But by the final third the plot disintegrates getting hacky and waaayy contrived especially the "Hey! It just so happens..." coinky-dinks and a laughable ending that falls flat as a pancake and panders to an urban audience almost to the point of patronization. Most of this movie is so over-the-top it would be unwatchable were it not for its charismatic lead.
Agent Clarice Starling could be back on the case in the big-screen version of "Hannibal." After Jodie Foster dropped out to direct "Flora Plum," the project looked to be filed away -- or at least returned to producer Dino DeLaurentiis.
Now it appears that "Magnolia" star Julianne Moore could be ready for her FBI badge and power suit. Daily Variety reports that the busy actress (she appeared in five movies in 1999) is in strong contention for active duty. Although Universal tells Hollywood.com that the actress hasn't committed yet, the studio may very well put her on the front line.
Variety says the role Moore is looking at is indeed that of Clarice Starling -- and not an all-new FBI agent character, as had been rumored when Foster bailed on the project.
Moore is a wild card in a "Hannibal" derby where Cate Blanchett, Hilary Swank, Gillian Anderson and Ashley Judd have all been touted as plucky replacements for the gun-toting heroine.
The casting of the role is key to the "Hannibal" puzzle, since Hannibal Lecter doesn't appear in Steve Zailian's script until one-quarter of the way into the movie. Whoever gets the call to action is also important in a fiscal sense. Anthony Hopkins, who won an Oscar for his turn as Hannibal the Cannibal, is likely to take a big bite out of the budget, with a deal worth more than $10 million, plus likely gross points.
Gross, not gore, is also the anatomically correct term for the horror drama's behind-the-scenes players. Before production even begins, DeLarurentiis, director Ridley Scott and "Silence of the Lambs" / "Hannibal" writer Thomas Harris have managed to gobble up a very scary 26 percent of the gross, according to reports.
DOUBLE DUTY: "Pretty Woman" Julia Roberts will definitely head south of the border with Brad Pitt in DreamWorks' "The Mexican," today's Hollywood Reporter says.
And for good measure, the actress also has reportedly said okay to a Vegas side trip with George Clooney in Warner Bros.' "Ocean's Eleven" remake.
According to the Reporter, the $20 million-a-pic mega-star won't receive that kind of spectacular payday for either film. Instead, she settled for a small advance against a significant part of the backend. (Translation: Don't worry about her bank account.)
"The Mexican," co-starring James Gandolfini ("The Sopranos"), is an action comedy about a con (Pitt) contending with an ancient gun -- believed to be cursed -- and an impatient girlfriend (Roberts). "Ocean's Eleven" is a new version of the 1960 Rat Pack film about a bunch of guys who rob Las Vegas casinos.
SHE SAYS, HE SAYS . . . NO: Catherine Zeta-Jones had her reasons for dropping out of Oliver Stone's "Beyond Borders." Now Kevin Costner has his excuse. Zeta-Jones is pregnant. Costner can't fit it into his schedule. Daily Variety reports that Stone, ever the optimistic Hollywood mogul, will press on to meet his scheduled May 1 start date with a new cast.
WEIRD 'NATURE': No one will ever accuse Charlie Kaufman of being a regular guy. The screenwriter of the offbeat "Being John Malkovich" keeps things a bit on the oddball side with his latest script, "Human Nature."
Variety reports that the dark comedy starring Patricia Arquette, Paul Giamatti and Miranda Otto begins shooting in May with music video maker Michel Gondry in the director's seat. The premise (believe it or not) is this: A woman (Arquette) suffers a hormonal abnormality that leaves her covered with body hair. Somehow, she becomes connected to a scientist who wants to save the world by teaching table manners to mice. The woman and the scientist, along with an assistant (Otto), have plans for a man (Rhys Ifans) raised in the wild as an ape.
Said Gondry to Variety: "The characters in 'Human Nature' may seem a bit extreme." Really?
STALLONE REVS UP: Sylvester Stallone, missing in action since 1997's "Copland," will try to switch to a higher gear by making a film about Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART). According to Variety, Stallone's polishing the script, which will be produced by Franchise Pictures.
Variety also notes that the actor was quoted as saying he was "in total limbo" after being shunned by Hollywood.
Let's hear it for the old guy who in this movie comes off sexier than his buff young accomplice (Dermot Mulroney). OK the old guy happens to be the gracefully aging icon Paul Newman -- as a feisty heistmeister who dodges a long prison sentence and then teams up with his equally conniving rest-home nurse (Linda Fiorentino) on a bank job gone wrong. "Where the Money Is" is breezy suspenseful and as much a love story as anything else -- if you call mentoring a new life in crime a kind of love. The mission-improbable caper is no more or less entertaining than a "Rockford Files" rerun but the film's swerving joyride takes its real thrills from the great escape that Fiorentino's Bonnie Parker makes from a dead-end life in the married lane.
Newman still hasn't lost it and as Henry Manning he doesn't miss any nuances in the edgy balance between streetwise wariness and amiable rapport with his sultry new colleague. The steam-powered Fiorentino has forged her career by making danger look casual and this is her most alluring work since "The Last Seduction" added another zero to her salary. Her chemistry with Newman a flirty twist on the idea of honor among thieves is really what makes this movie worth seeing. Mulroney is serviceable as the dim but lovable hubby a supporting role that's more foil than fully etched character.
We can all thank director Marek Kanievska for deciding not to have the May-December duo end up in the sack and leaving them simply professional cohorts. The director's admirable sense of comic timing works all the better by not letting the laughs get in the way of his leads' exploration of their characters -- although there's no denying the limits of this frothy genre. Perhaps Kanievska's greatest feat here is allowing Newman to retain his dignity in close-up.