ZERO EFFECT - THE APOSTLE - FOUR DAYS IN SEPTEMBER
MA VIE EN ROSE - THE REPLACEMENT KILLERS - DECEIVER

ZERO EFFECT

"Zero Effect" stars Bill Pullman as Tab-drinking, pretzel-eating, paranoid, socially dysfunctional genius Daryl Zero, a 90's private eye who specializes in the more offbeat types of cases. Zero's Sherlock Holmes-like character is joined by an unlikely Dr. Watson clone, Steve Arlo, played by Ben Stiller, as they seek out the blackmailer of their latest client, millionaire Gregory Stark, played by Ryan O'Neal

Robin ROBIN:
"Zero Effect" is an uneven whodunit with some truly amusing moments by Pullman as a modern day Holmes, right down to his drug habits and reliance on the power of deductive reasoning. Ben Stiller's Steve Arlo is more bitter and less bumbling than the Watson played by Nigel Bruce in the 30's and 40's. Stiller plays Arlo with a dark edginess as he copes with the insane logic of Zero as he tries to maintain a relationship with his fiance. The makers don't make good use of this decidedly odd couple.

The script by first-time writer-director Jake Kasdan (son of Lawrence) is uneven in both story line and pace with far too much time spent on the romance between Zero and Gloria, the blackmailer he is searching for, and too little of the quirky sleuthing by Zero.

Kim Dickens as the blackmailing love interest, Gloria, is emotionless and bland. There is no chemistry between her and Pullman, which hurts the film as the love interest is a major part of the story. Ryan O'Neil is making a comeback or sorts. He is starting to play supporting character roles, much like Burt Reynolds (without the flair) in "Striptease" and "Boogie Nights."

"Zero Effect" is a film of missed potential with some brief, but sparkling moments. I give it a C+.

Laura LAURA:
"Zero Effect" shows a lot of promise for its 22 year old writer/director Jake Kasdan (son of filmmaker Lawrence Kasdan) but unmining the treasures to be found within the film requires more patience than I'm afraid the average filmgoer will be willing to expend. Hopefully it will find a cult audience.

Bill Pullman ("Independence Day") is Daryl Zero, an extremely expensive private investigator who's introduced as a complete nutcase who's more reclusive than Howard Hughes, fancies himself as a rock star, and also happens to be a genius at his profession. With a nod to Sherlock Holmes, he also appears to be a drug user. Playing his exasperated Watson is Ben Stiller as Steve Arlo, the man who actually makes the client contact. Ryan O'Neal is industrialist Gregory Stark, who wishes to hire Zero to find the lost keys to his safety deposit box without telling him what's in the box or who's trying to blackmail him.

The film's major flaw is that as soon as we're presented with Zero as the penultimate recluse, he decides to fly to Seattle to tail his client in a variety of disguises. Working out with Stark in his health club, Zero meets Gloria Sullivan (Kim Dickens), who's he's able to deduce is a paramedic. Soon she appears in a place that also casts suspision on her as the person Zero is looking for. He also is attracted to her and for the first time attempts to make human contact.

Pullman is understatedly hilarious as the socially inept Zero, tossing off Kasdan's gleefully offbeat lines with such aplomb that it sometimes takes a beat for the audience to get the joke ("When you go looking for something, with all the things in the world, you're bound to find one." "There are evil guys and good guys and then there's just a bunch of guys.") He also shows a knack for physical comedy, twirling around while turning a reversible jacket inside out. Stiller is perfect as Arlo, loyal yet in a constant state of slow burn. He has no control over his life because of Zero's illogical demands (like having Arlo skip yet another evening with his girlfriend to fly from L.A. to Seattle, only to send him straight back to L.A. to do some computer research). Kim Dickens has a nice, pixieish screen presence as Gloria.

With the exceptions of bringing his hero out of seclusion too abruptly and some pacing problems, Kasdan's script is a real winner. Zero's methods are clever and funny (objectivity and observation) and his pairing with Arlo is deft. Technically the film has some problems with a few dubious edits, some misguided camera placements and subpar lighting. The film features some offbeat musical choices, using Nick Cave's "Into My Arms" to particularly good effect.

"Zero Effect" has created a detective pairing that I'd love to see come back to the screen in a sequel. Now that Jake Kasdan's has his debut under his belt, hopefully his next film will show more polish.

B-


THE APOSTLE

Popular Pentecostal preacher Sonny Dewey (Robert Duvall) has a rude awakening when he discovers that his long suffering wife Jessie (Farrah Fawcett) is not only having an affair with a young minister Horace - she's also used his church's by-laws to take control of the church. Sonny gets drunk and confronts his wife at his son's Little League game and when Horace tries to defuse the situation Sonny goes too far and hits him over the head with a baseball bat sending the man into a coma. Sonny flees and recreates himself in Bayou Boutte, Louisianna as The Apostle E.F.

Laura LAURA:
It's taken Robert Duvall 12 years to bring his story to the screen and it's truly a labor of love. Duvall's created the quintessential character for himself and is a strong contender for the 1997 Best Actor Oscar.

"The Apostle" is reminiscent of such films as "Slingblade" and "Ulee's Gold" in that it creates its own world of a small Southern town peopled with believable every day characters. Sonny himself is a character who's neither wholly good or bad - even though he's a womanizer who's committed an act which we learn was a murderous one, one cannot help empathize with the man who is a force of nature with a true calling.

One of Duvall's greatest achievements is his ability to make his fanatical evangelical preaching not only appealing, but to make it seem like a true American art form. His fervor is transcendent in several scenes, particularly in the film's opening where Sonny and his mother come across a horrific highway accident and Sonny breaks through police lines to spiritually save a young man who may be dying in the front seat of his car with his wife. When a policeman tries to gently lead Sonny away, Sonny keeps right on praying while comically kicking his leg out to shoo away the officer. Later, having moved in with his mother (June Carter Cash in a grounded performance), Sonny yells at God late into the night as his mother smiles in her bed downstairs paying no heed to a phone call from a complaining neighbor.

When he flees town, he stays a few days in a tent in the yard of a one legged man who spends his days fishing. Duvall baptizes himself in the lake and deems himself The Apostle, before travelling on to Bayou Boutte, where he finds the retired preacher Reverend Blackwell (John Beasley) and enlists his aid to reopen his long boarded up country church. He also trades his talents as an auto mechanic to get air time on the local radio station run by Elmo (Rick Dial of "Slingblade"). His fervor inspires young mechanic Sam (Walter Goggins), and soon the group has restored not only the church, but a rundown old bus that Sonny himself drives to collect his parishioners.

Duvall's brilliant performance is ably supported by his mixed cast of professionals and non-professional local church goers. Miranda Richardson is Toosie, Sonny's new love interest. Country musician Billy Joe Shaver is Joe, Sonny's reformed Texas friend who provides Sonny's link to his past. Furniture salesman and friend of Billy Bob Thornton Rick Dial is a joy on film delivering his second totally natural performance. (According to press notes, Dial's scheduling was more problematic than any other cast member, forcing the filmmakers to shoot around his summer furniture sale!) Billy Bob himself shows up as a racist challenging Sonny's right to run a church comprised of mostly Blacks. When he shows up at a Church picnic riding a bulldozer to take down Sonny's "One Way Road to Heaven" Church, Sonny manages to convert him (and avoid calling in the law) by playing the man's respect for the Bible (while Elmo humorously gives his radio audience a blow by blow description of the 'first on air conversion'). The fact that Billy Bob's motivations and subsequent conversion are sketchily drawn at best is the film's one flaw. Also of note are Zelma Loyd and Sister Jewell Jernigan as the ever squabbling Sister Johnson and Sister Jewell.

"The Apostle" technically belies it's low budget (Duvall financed the film himself), with natural lensing by Barry Markowitz ("Slingblade"), art direction by Linda Burton and costumes by Douglas Hall. The film is a satisfying winner telling a distinctly regional story with a compelling central character.

A-

Robin ROBIN:
Robert Duvall deserves high praise from his peers and colleagues for the astounding individual effort of bringing "The Apostle" to the screen after twelve years of trying. He put up his own money, wrote the screenplay, directs and stars in what has to be one of the most dedicated individual and personal efforts I can think of.

Duvall, first, as fallen preacher Euliss "Sonny" Dewey, gives a near-manic performance as a man of the cloth who has succumbed, too often, to the temptations of the flesh and of drink. When he sees the writing on the wall, he transports himself both physically and spiritually into The Apostle E.F. He is still a man of the cloth but is now seeking his religious roots in a return to the heart of his faith.

The original screenplay focuses on the preacher, while giving the opportunity to several amateur locals a chance to provide some amusing little performances. Rick Dial, the garage owner in last year's "Sling Blade," makes a fun splash as a Bible Belt radio station owner and DJ. The pros who provide support - Farrah Fawcett, Miranda Richardson and Billy Bob Thornton - are wasted with little to do but provide background names. Fawcett, in particular, made a mistake not taking Richardson's role as love interest Toosey. Richardson concentrates on getting the Southern accent right and little more. Billy Bob's character feels tacked on and out of place, except to promote an opponent that the Apostle wins over to the Lord.

Duvall gives a brilliant performance in a career that is peppered with many brilliant performances. He nears the outrageous as both Sonny and E.F. but balances, with masterfulness, the over-the-top with the subtle. I'm still rooting for Peter Fonda as best actor for "Ulee's Gold." I won't cry if Duvall cops it. (I will cry if Nicholson gets it for "As Good As It Gets.")

Duvall is the best thing in "The Apostle" and I give it a B+.


FOUR DAYS IN SEPTEMBER

Based on the true-life incident, "Four Days in September," by director Bruno Barreto, tells the story of the kidnapping of American Ambassador to Brazil, Charles Burke Elbrick (Alan Arkin), on September 4, 1969, by a band of naive idealists known as the October 8th Revolutionary Movement (MR-8). Elbrick is held for four days as the Brazilian dictators try to locate the kidnappers while deciding whether or not to meet the revolutionaries? demand for the release of 15 political prisoners. During these four days, the kidnappers and their victim undergo a metamorphosis with each side discovering the true political ideology and humanity of the other.

Robin ROBIN:
Director Barreto ("Dona Flora and Her Two Husbands") has created a remarkably riveting political drama that rivals the best of the genre, even the great Costa-Gavras film "Z." Loosely based on the book, "What's Up, Comrade?" ("O que e isso, companheiro?") by one of the kidnappers, Fernando Gabeira, "Four Days in September" is a finely crafted film that has strong, convincing performances by its entire cast of mostly South American actors.

Alan Arkin, the only familiar "name" in the film for American viewers, gives an understated, but powerful, performance as Ambassador Elbrick. The complex humanity of the man comes through as Elbrick explains his personal views on the ruling junta and America's Vietnam policy to his captors. To the surprise of the members of MR-8, the ambassador's views are not all that different from their own, blurring the revolutionaries' resolve against the American puppet masters.

The Portuguese-speaking ensemble cast, portraying both the MR-8 members and, in the form of cop Hemrique, the police, are excellent on all levels. The typical black and white depiction of such a sensitive political climate is absent in "Four Days in September," with both sides showing humanity and ruthlessness. The focal character, the book's author Gabeira, is a bright eyed idealist who is ready to pull the trigger on the diplomat. The police torturer is depicted as a family man who is doing his job until he realizes the whole folly of the dictators.

Technical aspects are straight forward and exact. The sets, mostly interiors, lend to the claustrophobic, conspiratorial air the film carries throughout its run time. Photography, too, is suitably dark and moody, using contrast to give the film a visual edginess that complements the tight, efficient screenplay by Leopoldo Serran.

I am thrilled to give "Four Days in September" my first A for 1998. It will probably get only a limited release in theaters like the Kendall, but give the extra effort to take this flick in. Top-notch political thrillers are few and far between, so don't miss this gem.

Laura LAURA:
"Four Days in September," from Brazilian director Bruno Barretto ("Carried Away," "Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands"), is a rivetting political thriller based on the autobiographical book by Fernando Gabeira reflecting on his participation in the 1969 kidnapping of the American Ambassador to Brazil. It's also the Brazilian submittal for the 1997 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.

Barretto introduces two of the kidnappers intellectualizing with their actor roommate when they decide to put their money where their mouths are. (These are the kind of young men who, when they watch the moon landing on TV, make comments like 'the American cavalry invades the moon and there aren't even any natives to kill.') They get their first rude awakening when their contact groups them together with three other young recruits and has them face the wall to 'meet' Maria, who informs them that they're about to give about their homes and identity for the cause. In a tense and well editted sequence, the group robs a bank to bankroll their cause and loses their first member when he hesitates at shooting a guard. He provides our introduction to the conflicted policeman who finds himself torturing these young terrorists in order to maintain his government job.

Fernando comes up with the bold plan of kidnapping the American ambassador in exchange for the release of 15 political prisoners and news coverage of the group's manifesto. The painfully young Renee presents herself at the Ambassador's gate as a country girl looking for work and manages to successfully seduce the head of security in order to obtain the information the group needs to execute their plan.

The kidnapping itself is the stuff of high drama (think Costa Gavras of twenty-five years ago). Once the group have ensconsed themselves in a suburban home with their captive, their inexperience begins to show and each goes through his own journey of self discovery as they realize that the price for maintaining their idealism is very high. It's this human face, where nothing is black or white, that makes this film so effective.

Barretto has assembled a terrific cast of Brazilian actors along with Alan Arkin as Charles Burke Elbrick, the dignified Ambassador. Making his screen debut is Pedro Cardoso as Fernando Gabiera (code name Pedro) as the naively idealistic journalist who decides to join the October 8th Revolutionary Movement (MR-8) along with his friend Cezar to battle the military regime. Cardoso is perfect in the part, especially as convictions are later tested when he grows to respect and admire the group's victim. Unfortunately, Cardoso so strongly resembles Noah Taylor in "Shine," I kept expecting him to sit down and play Rachmaninoff. Fernanda Torres is Maria, the no nonsense leader of the MR-8 (until two more experienced men are brought in from Sao Paolo) who Pedro is attracted to. Claudia Abreu is the mysteriously melancholic Renee. Her performance leaves you wanting to know her background and her character has the same effect on the kidnapped Ambassador. Alan Arkin proves what a great talent he is with this role and gives such a wonderfully modulated performance he's the first on my list for consideration for this year's supporting actor honors.

"Four Days in September" is the work of an assured, experienced director and is compelling from start to finish. Leave the mostly inane Hollywood product at the multiplex and take the time to seek out this terrific movie.

A


MA VIE EN ROSE

In the Belgian submission for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, "Ma Vie en Rose," Ludovic is a 7 year old boy who believes he's really a girl. At first his family and friends nervously laugh away Ludovic's penchant for dressing up in girl's clothing. However, when he's discovered staging a marriage ceremony with his father's boss's son, the community begins to reject Ludovic and his parents don't know how to cope. Thankfully, Ludovic's maternal grandmother is more of a free spirit.

Laura LAURA:
"Ma Vie en Rose" is an amazingly assured film for a directorial debut. Producer Carole Scotta brought Chris vander Stappen's script together with director Alain Berliner and the technical team was rounded out by production designer Veronique Melery, cinematographer Yves Cape and special effects by Eve Romboz. Add a note perfect cast to the mix, particularly lead Georges Du Fresne, and you've got one of those rarities - a just about perfect film.

"Ma Vie en Rose" is essentially an expose on how strong the adult urge is to blend in, to not be different, told with great humor and intelligence. Children can be cruel, but their natural curiosity can also allow some open mindedness and they still believe in fairness as a given.

Ludovic is too young to understand the ramifications of his declarations that he will become a girl and marry his pal Jerome, but he does understand the hatred that starts coming his way, culminating with his own mother breaking down and declaring that everything bad that's happened to the family is all his fault. His only refuge is his vibrant grandmother (Helene Vincent), a free spirit who doesn't attempt to mold him into what society expects. His father (Jean-Philippe Ecoffey) is in a difficult situation as not only is he in denial about Ludovic but his livelihood is impacted as well. Ludovic's mom Hanna (Michele Laroque) truly loves him, but even she is confused by Ludovic's declarations and when her life is turned upside down because of Ludovic she snaps. This is an awful lot to put on the shoulders of a 7 year old. Fortunately the filmmakers come up with a delightful and novel twist to end their film in the most uplifting way.

The film looks fabulous, beginning with everything in eye popping colors as neighbors dress up for the party Ludovic's family is throwing to introduce themselves to their new neighborhood. Ludovic's grandma pulls up in a canary yellow car. Ludovic's dream world, where a Barbie-like doll called Pam is always wooed by the Ken-like Ben, is presented in lollipop hues. The camera often flies above the heads of those it's observing, just as Ludovic does in his fantasies. We're even treated to the visualization of Ludovic's explanation as to why he was born in a boy's body - apparently God missed the chimney opening when tossing down the Y chromosome that should have gone to Ludovic! The somewhat sultry pop tune 'Ma Vie en Rose,' causes not only Ludovic to do a hypnotic dance, but catches up both his parents as we see in two separate scenes.

'Ma Vie en Rose' is a terrific little gem and a terrific argument for tolerance. I give it an A-.

Robin ROBIN:
"Ma Vie En Rose" is a delightful fantasy about a little boy who understands himself and his feelings far better than all the supposedly adult-minded adults around him. Basically, the story is about the differences between little Ludovic and how he sees himself, and what those around him see as normal. Ludo knows, deep inside, that he speaks the truth when he says "I'm a boy now but one day I'll be a girl," all to the chagrin of his parents and neighbors. And, for the run of the film, you really believe that all will be well for the boy, even though the future reality will probably be much harsher than the optimistic conclusion.

Georges Du Fresne is perfect as the knowing young Ludovic, giving the character a mature worldliness that is far beyond his seven years on earth. He is as seslf assured as any adult actor I have seen. He doesn't show any self consciousness in his portrayal as a little girl who understands, quite early, that she's in a boy's body AND that will change. Ludo is a 90's Christine Jorgenson and will, you feel, grasp his dream.

The screenplay, by director Alain Berliner and Chris vander Stappen, is original, funny and dramatic, with crisp writing and a pacing that carries "Ma Vie En Rose" through its energetic story. The kitschy art direction by Veronique Melery is reminiscent of Tim Burton's "Edward Scissorhands" in its use of pastel colors with a concentration, of course, on blue and pink.

The supporting cast of characters, especially Michele Laroque as Ludo's pressured mom and Jean-Philippe Ecoffey as his tightly wound dad, is a wonderful collection of actors who lend their best to the whole fantasy.

"Ma Vie En Rose" is a delight and I give it an A-.


THE REPLACEMENT KILLERS

Hong Kong action superstar, Chow Yun-Fat, makes his American film debut in "The Replacement Killers" as professional killer John Lee, who, to protect his family, agrees to take a job with Chinatown crime boss, Mr. Wei, only to find out the hit is a vendetta against police detective Stan Zedkov. Lee goes against the mobster, preferring to face Wei's replacement killers than kill an innocent. With the aid of document forger and unexpected partner Meg Coburn (Mira Sorvino), Lee races to outsmart and outshoot Wei's hoodlums and save his family in China.

Robin ROBIN:
While I am thrilled to see the great Chow Yun-Fat make his appearance in American film, it is too bad that he decided to debut in "The Replacement Killers." Directed by freshman helmer Antoine Fuqua, whose previous claim to fame was rap singer Coolio's music video "Gangsta's Paradise," the film suffers from the director's obvious inexperience. The seven, count them, seven producers make their presence known as the film feels like it was made by committee, even though the Hong Kong action master, John Woo, is one of the committee.

The story by screenwriting newcomer Ken Sanzel lacks originality, copying the style of John Woo's works, such as "Hard-Boiled," "A Better Tomorrow" and "The Killer" (all starring Chow Yun-Fat), without any of the actionmeister's passion and thoughtfulness. Woo's Hong Kongers are masterly crafted works that are a pleasure to watch. (I can't say that about Woo's American films, "Hard Target," "Broken Arrow" and "Face/Off.") Sanzel and director Fuqua provide non-stop shoot-outs, just like Woo, but that's as close as they get.

Chow Yun-Fat made a poor choice for his entry into American action film. He still has his patented soulful looks and two fisted gunplay (Chow originated the two handed shoot-out adopted by so many American action stars), but is uncomfortable with his English, yet. Next time is the charm, maybe.

Mira Sorvino is merely OK as John Lee's unlikely sidekick. She does the action stuff with professional effort, but sells herself short, as an Oscar winner, in her selection of roles - see "Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion" as another example of banal career choices.

"The Replacement Killers" misses the target for Hong Kong actioner fans, but will find a home, for a little while, with the 17-24 year old male audience it obviously aims at with its outrageous shoot-outs and Mira Sorvino in sexy clothes. From me, it gets a C+.

Laura LAURA:
"The Replacement Killers" is the long awaited American debut of Hong Kong action star and John Woo favorite Chow Yun-Fat. Unfortunately, John Woo wasn't available to direct, so put on a producer's hat instead. Video director Antoine Fuqua ("Ganstas' Paradise") has certainly captured the look of a John Woo film, but doesn't have the experience to deliver the resonance as well. This is a prime example of all style and no substance.

Not to say that the style isn't entertaining. Chow Yun-Fat says little but looks great - he's the elegant action man with his trademark double gun choreography. Mira Sorvino is really enjoyable as the tough cookie passport forger that gets pulled into the action and decides to stay there as she grows to know Chow's character John Lee. Of course, in this movie Sorvino's Meg works alone in a warehouse dressed to the nines in a black leather mini and exotic hairstyle, but she can kick butt with the best of them, even in heels. Michael Rooker glowers as the police detective the evil Asian crimelord wants revenge against. Jurgen Prochnow is suitably scary as Mr. Wei's henchman. German star Til Schweiger is inexplicably thrown into the mix as a hitman who doesn't last through his second scene.

The film has several shoot outs that work well, particularly one in a car wash. A video arcade picture booth is also used effectively in another shoot out. "The Crow" also came to mind with the use of lots of night rain, fire escapes and action punctuated with sound effects and driving music.

Some of Woo's themes are given the nod here, such as a strong father and son theme. In the end, though, this attempt to Americanize the Hong Kong action genre merely ends up as a shallow copy of one. It's like that old Chinese food cliche - you can eat a lot, but two hours later you'll be hungry again.

C+


DECEIVER

Written and directed by twin brothers Josh and Jonas Pate ("The Grave"), "Deceiver" is a psychological thriller centered on murder suspect James Walter Wayland (Tim Roth), a wealthy Charleston bluebood with a high IQ and a predilection for mind games. Michael Kennesaw (Michael Rooker, "Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer") is the police detective with a psychology degree who's determined to nail Wayland. Chris Penn ("Reservoir Dogs") is the dim-witted, gambling addicted, Detective Braxton who's responsible for administering the series of lie detector tests that punctuate the film. Renee Zellweger ("Jerry Maguire") is the young brutally murdered prostitute the audience comes to know via flashbacks.

Laura LAURA:
"Deceiver" aspires to the clever plot twists of "The Usual Suspects" but catches itself up at the midway point by too blatantly telegraphing one twist, presenting another as clearly as mud, and straining past the point of acceptance with the rest. The Pate brothers need more practice.

Tim Roth, usually a fascinating performer, comes across opaquely in a character intended to be juicy. He's brilliant, not sure if he's good or bad, and suffers from temporal lobe epilepsy - a particularly volatile type of the disease. Roth presents Wayland as alternately blank and aggressive with a few doses of eyeball rolling seizure theatrics. Michael Rooker is far more interesting as the smarter than average cop who seems particularly intent on this particular suspect. He's also shown to be a suspicious and abusive husband, channeling rage onto celluloid in a way that few can. (Roseanna Arquette, in the small role as his wife, really makes us feel her fear via body language, even as she presents a brave face to her husband.) Chris Penn is OK as the easily duped former security guard who's in hawk to his colleague for a $10,000 gambling debt. Renee Zellweger earns audience sympathy as the 'hooker with a heart of gold' who befriends Wayland even though she finds him weird. Ellen Burstyn has a good time as Mook, Braxton's bookie (and also tied to another character we come to find out).

The film's intriguing at first. We're introduced to the three main characters during the first lie detector test and we're not told the crime. Roth and Rooker begin to dance around each other, with Roth brilliantly maneuvering the test to his advantage and Rooker apparently trying to make his suspect sweat rather than maintain an atmosphere more condusive to receiving unbiased results. Roth says he never lies, then shifts and says his statement included a lie by omission - he was drunk on absinthe the night he ran into the murdered woman (his phone number was found in her pocket). He requests a bathroom visit where he swallows some pills and arrogantly leaves a $100 'tip' for Braxton. Kennesaw notes Wayland's pupils and calls him on the attempt to falsify the test results and Wayland dances back with his epilepsy.

The flashbacks which flesh out the story pile on more questions about Wayland's motivations. Did he commit the crime during an epileptic fit? Is he being framed? Why would he have killed the woman he seemingly befriends and then cut her body in half and deposit the remains in two different places?

Unfortunately what the filmmakers must have perceived as a clever and perplex course of events in reality is what we've come to suspect all along, capped by a series of ever increasingly unbelievable turns that would have it both ways.

Technically, the film shows its low budget roots, with most scenes shot in cramped interiors with dingy lighting. The brief exteriors of Charleston, South Carolina make us yearn for more. "Deceiver's" art direction, like "Fallen," inexplicably furnishes its interiors out of the 1950's (why would Kennesaw have an old black rotary phone in his home?).

I give "Deceiver" a C-.


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