3:56 a.m. 12/31/04—1/1/05
Happy New Year, y’all. How apropos that I saw the movie, January Man, last night. I bought it sight unseen because it has, yes, you guessed it, Alan Rickman. It also has Susan Sarandon, which is an added bonus. Kevin Kline doesn’t do a thing for me, but Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio isn’t too hard on the eyes. There’s even a totally-gratuitous breast shot of her which is a nice bonus. I’m getting ahead of myself, of course, but when is that news to anyone?
First of all, the scene with Alan—Ed—and his nude model….She has the roundest tits I’ve seen in a non-porn movie. They’re nice, but a bit distracting. Her face isn’t that much to look at, however. Oh, why is she there nude? Ed is a painter—and I can totally see Alan as a painter, especially with that beard he has going. I also like the fact that he’s allowed to be British because there’s no reason to be American. Alan does his usual stand-up job, but there is not nearly enough of him in this oh-so-tedious do-it-by-the-numbers thriller—and I use the word ‘thriller’ advisedly. The only good thing about this is that it has Susan and Alan—even though neither is that prominent. Other than that, well, it’s pretty putrid.
Where to start? Oh, how about the fact that I don’t buy Kevin Kline as a genius cop for a minute? How about the idea that a girl half his age would immediately fall for him is nothing short of ludicrous? When I realized that the same director did Sweet November, well, I should have considered myself forewarned. Oh, what about the let’s-see-how-gullible-the audience-is subplot of Kline’s brother being the police commission and making Kline his fall guy when he does something shady? How about Kline acquiescing because their mother loved him more than Kietel’s character—Kline’s brother? Speaking of Harvey—I spent much of the movie being direly afraid that he’d drop trou as is his wont. Happily, he keeps them on throughout the whole movie. I guess you could say that’s the other good thing about this movie, small favor that it is.
Oh, Danny Aiello as the captain of the cops is quite good, but really, he’s the quintessential world-weary cop type so it’s not a huge stretch for him. If anything, he seems to put it in automatic until the very end, and by then it’s way too late. Rod Steiger as the corrupt mayor is simply horrible with his overacting and bug-eyed approach to anger. It’s also difficult to believe that he’s the father of Mary Elizabeth, who does a decent enough job with the role she’s given. At least she has something of a role while Susan Sarandon is relegated to a scene or two. Another of the outrageous coincidences in this movie—she marries Keitel after dating Kline. Oh, and Kline falls for Mary Elizabeth who happens to be with the girl murdered on December 31st. Happy New Year!
The whole plot of this movie reeks. There’s this elaborate scheme of a serial killer who only kills on days that are prime numbers, and he only hits certain buildings which form the constellation Virgo, and the apartments he hits play the song, Calendar Girl. As an ex-psych major, all I can say is, NO! This is so laughable that it barely merits mentioning. The way the cops operate is egregious as well. I know this is all before the days of cop shows and super-accuracy, but still. There should be at least a verisimilitude of reality in the story this movie is presenting. But, alas, it is not to be. Kline is allowed to bring Ed into the office to work with him. Ed paints the walls with birds, then delves into the computer work. If that isn’t unbelievable enough, Kline is allowed to bring Mary Elizabeth into the last crime scene. Really! What the hell is that about? She’s a civilian, even if she is the mayor’s daughter and is fucking the lead detective on the case. It just wouldn’t happen.
What else? None of the characters are interesting in and of themselves except for Ed, and that’s mostly because it’s Alan. Sarandon’s character is there just to exacerbate the tension between the brothers and to stir up a little trouble when she discovers Mary Elizabeth in Kline’s apartment with no pants on. Sarandon does her best, but it’s less than a nothing role. Keitel is just painful to watch with his deadpan delivery and monotonous voice. Steiger, as I already mentioned is horrible whereas Kline, well, the kindest I can be is to say that he is incredibly bland. I don’t buy he’s a genius, and I don’t buy him as someone who can snag a twenty-three year old woman just by telling her he wants to go to bed with her. In fact, when Kline asks Ed to take Mary Elizabeth back to his apartment, I was hoping for a hook-up between Ed and Mary Elizabeth. Bernadette, I should say, but that name is so not her.
I’m sorry, but as I’m watching Kline, Ed and Mary Elizabeth interact—by the way, the reason I’m using the real names of most the actors is because I have to think too hard to remember the role names—I’m thinking, ‘I’d choose Alan over Kline any day.’ Then, I started thinking about whom else I would choose Alan over—most everybody—starting with Brad Pitt. An article started gelling in my mind, which is the plus-side of watching a movie which doesn’t require a great deal of concentration. At least it’s a relatively short movie, which is a mercy.
The fake denouement with the wrong guy is wretched. Not only is it instantly recognized as a red herring, it doesn’t even make sense. How does the guy know about the other killer if he’s been in a loony bin for the last two years? Sure, maybe he read about it in the last three days since he got out, but to choose a day so close to the right day—well, that’s just too much coincidence to believe. Then to conveniently throw himself out the window? Please. That’s bush league at best. I almost stopped watching at that point, but I felt obligated to watch the whole thing because I’d bought it.
The other thing that irked me—well, another thing. I’m not done yet—is that I really wanted either the mayor or the police commissioner to be the bad guy. The fact that it is someone totally different feels like a cheat to me. It would have been great if it were Keitel because then we’d have a show-down between brothers. As it is, we have this totally drawn-out, ludicrous scene in which Kline battles the baddie down several flights of stairs. He doesn’t have a gun on him for whatever reason—he never explains—which means there’s a bunch of grabbing and punching. Then Kline talks for a bit while the baddie regains his breath to make a dash for it again. This is purportedly a comedy, but it’s not very funny.
That’s the problem in a nutshell. It’s supposedly a thriller but isn’t thrilling. It’s a comedy without being funny. It’s trying to delve the psyche of this man who takes the fall for his brother, but his psyche really isn’t worth knowing. Rickman steals every scene he’s in, obviously, and it would have been so delicious if he were the killer. While Bernadette and Nick battle the faux killer Ed hired to decoy them, he kills the woman they are purportedly trying to save—at least that’s how I imagine it. When he gives the woman his trademark grin and lift of the eyebrow, that would have been a perfect moment for him to pull out a blue ribbon and start walking towards her. Oh, how it would have redeemed this movie to a certain extent if there had been any kind of twist to the ending. Or, what if it’d been a woman instead of a man? Like Sarandon’s character. That would have been good, too, though not as good as Rickman being the killer. I must say, Rickman is very good at being the baddie, and I would love to see him as a serial killer. I have Die Hard just waiting for me to view it again in which he’s the ultimate baddie, but I’d like to see him portray a sick, twisted person with no moral values. Full frontal nudity wouldn’t be bad, either, but I digress. I’m just allowing you into my mind while watching this movie.
I bought this since Netflix doesn’t have it—which is good for you. If they did have it, however, I would only recommend it if you really, really, like Alan Rickman—who’s stellar as usual, Mary Elizabeth, Kevin Kline or Harvey Keitel. Susan Sarandon’s not in it enough to recommend it to see her. The only other reason is if you’ve been a bad, bad person and need to atone for your sins. Sitting through this movie would be a good way to do just that. As much as it pains me to pan an Alan Rickman movie, I must do so here. Go see any other of his movie rather than this one. It’s bound to be better.
Addendum: Netflix does, indeed, have this movie. It’s just not listed under Rickman’s credits. Avoid it at all cost. Considered yourself warned.