Saturday, March 11, 2006

Review – The Constant Gardener

Rare is the movie that fails to work on this many levels. It’s a mystery about an English bureaucrat in Africa whose liberal crusader wife is murdered under strange circumstances. The truth behind the killing becomes apparent to even the dimmest audience member almost immediately, but our hero flails on and on trying to reach the place we’ve all gotten to ages after we’ve gotten there. Like some other movies based on LeCarre novels, this show features some action movie elements. But there’s nowhere near enough action for it to qualify for that genre, either. Having an international drug company and its government stooges play the bad guys suggests that the production is also trying to be a message piece, but the message is so simple-minded (poisoning Africans to test drugs for Western markets is bad) that it isn’t any more interesting than the non-mysterious mystery. Finally, the picture seems to be going for stylish and in places erotic. Heroine Rachel Weitz sort of makes it work, but Ralph Fiennes plays his character’s tense and nerdy aspects far too well for him to appeal to viewers as a hero suited to a slick, sexy action movie. The result has lots of ambition but not much achievement. Mildly amusing

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