Killing Me Softly



UK/US 2002 : Chen Kaige : 100 mins

Chen Kaige has been responsible for some of the most stunning films of the past decade, including the remarkable Farewell My Concubine and the less widely-seen Temptress Moon, a well-made examination of the modernization of China. So it’s hard to understand how he has managed to create such a pile of old cobblers as Killing Me Softly. Bad acting, worse script and ludicrous sex scenes. suddenly Body of Evidence doesn’t look all that bad.

Alice (Heather Graham) is a web-site designer languishing in a dull relationship. After a chance sexual encounter she falls for mysterious stranger Adam (Joseph Fiennes). As she gradually loses her inhibitions – and her resistance to increasingly violent sex becomes more violent Alice receives notes from another mysterious stranger warning her away from Adam. Ignoring the advice in spectacular style, she marries Adam – only to hear yet more disturbing rumours about her husband’s past. Is he really the oddball romantic she’s pegged him as. or something a lot more dangerous?

It’s quite incredible how stupid the characters are throughout this film. Hmm, let’s see. Alice goes off for a fling for a man she meets at a pedestrian crossing and has rampant sex without knowing anything about the man she’s screwing. She then marries him, despite the fact that he’s an obvious psycho (Fiennes sports an unsubtle ‘I’m ever so evil’ sneer throughout the film). As the ‘truth’ begins to be revealed, we’re not worried about her. In fact, we hope she gets bumped off as anybody who is that dumb deserves no more pleasant fate. The actors seem to have realised the utter turkey that they are making, phoning in their performances, and the two leads exuding the charisma – and sexual chemistry – of a carrot. The least said about the ending the better – it completely negates everything that has gone before.

The direction is a particular letdown. Set in a flat and featureless London, the film fails to have any glamour whatsoever. The supposed shocks are pedestrian and can be seen from a mile away, whilst some mountaineering scenes are desperately shoehorned into the movie with the presumed intention of conferring a little more grandeur to the proceedings. Needless to say, it doesn’t work. Hopefully everyone involved will let this one slide to the bottom of their CV. It would probably do quite well on video with the dirty mac brigade hoping to see Graham in the buff. She does the same in Boogie Nights. Watch that one again, instead.

guest review by Laurence Boyce of the Leeds International Film Festival – winner of the 2002 Ainsworth Award for the UK’s best regional print film review of 2002

by Neil Young
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