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People I Know
2002 - R - 95 minutes Mins.
Director: Dan Algrant
Producer: Michael Nozik, Leslie Urdang, Karen Tenkhoff
Written By: Jon Robin Baitz
Starring: Al Pacino, Kim Basinger, Ryan O'Neal, Tea Leoni, Richard Schiff
Review by: David Trier
   
What the hell is going on here? It's been ages since I could rate a movie above a B-! And I'm a lot less picky than I used to be. But, once again, another film is released that's plenty easy to forget.

Eli Wurman (Al Pacino) is a tired, pill-popping publicist who's been around for so long he knows pretty much everyone there is to know in Manhattan. One night his last remaining client, movie star Cary Launer (Ryan O'Neal), asks him to pick up Jilli (Tea Leoni), and escort her to a flight out of town. Launer doesn't want scandal, but this drugged out actress may have something important he can't let go to the press, especially if he decides to use his fame to run for office any time soon. But when Jilli drags Eli to an opium den and she later ends up dead, Eli's not entirely certain what he saw and who his friends really are. Oh, and apparently Eli's widowed sister-in-law (Kim Basinger) is in love with him.

For a drama, there is only one compelling character and he's always on the verge of passing out. I guess Pacino enjoyed his part in Insomnia so much, he's decided only to do characters who've fallen asleep in their face. I generally enjoy Pacino's work but it's understandable why some people find him unwatchable and accuse him of doing the same thing in every movie. Along those lines, Pacino fans will probably think he did a decent job and non-fans will use this film as further proof of their hypothesis. Tea Leoni is pretty good, but not around for enough of the film. Supporters Ryan O'Neal, Richard Schiff and Bill Nunn are all acceptable but not memorable. Mark Webber is pretty likeable as Eli's scruffy young assistant.

Kim Basinger is faced with two serious setbacks. First, her character is totally unnecessary, and I mean totally. She has nothing to do with the actual narrative. Second, she's a bad actress. Sure, people say, "What about L.A. Confidential?" but these are the same people who go on and on about "Magnolia" when you point out what a horrible actor Tom Cruise is. She's easy enough on the eyes, but the eyes aren't present in the scene and her performance is completely void of emotion.

For a mystery thriller, there sure doesn't seem to be any tension. There are maybe two or three emotionally intense scenes, but the plot never amounts to much. Classic mystery tools such as a missing disk or pictures, are employed but never fully executed. Maybe we'd like to know if they get away with it. Hell, maybe we'd like to know exacly who's the one getting away with stuff. But instead we just get a lot of discussion and no story. The film ends before you know it and never really delivers.

It clocks in at 95 minutes, which is disturbing because it feels like way more than two hours. Most films that take place in New York make me feel a little nostaligic. A director worth his weight should be able to capture the essence of that city regardless of what kind of movie it is. But Dan Algrant, whose credits include Naked in New York and the NY-based show Sex in the City, presents us with only a Hollywood version of Manhattan that is not as interesting as one might think. C
 
Movie Guru Rating
Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable.
  2.5 out of 5 stars

 
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