Skip to main content

They're from the planet Bantar, aren't they Isaac?


Final Analysis
(1992)

(SPOILERS) Richard Gere and his tiny, tiny eyes. An invitation not to see a movie if ever there was one. And yet he endures. Often he seems barely awake. In Phil Joanou’s busy but unengaging Hitchcock homage he occasionally signals his alertness by studiously blinking, like a mole under a UV lamp. I wasn’t 100% sure if I’d seen this movie before, and even the wave of familiarity that washed over me as I viewed it left me confused; was I feeling this purely because it is so derivative?


Final Analysis was released in the same year as Basic Instinct. Both films are throwbacks to the slow burn noir thrillers of the ‘40s and ‘50s, and both update the formula with lashings of sex and violence. Curiously, both are also set in San Francisco. Basic Instinct succeeds because Paul Verhoeven embraces the silliness of his script (Joe Esterhaz was never the most subtle of writers) and makes his result as insanely exaggerated as possible. He’s inviting the audience to laugh along with the ride. Joanou is working from a screenplay by Wesley Strick (Robert Berger has a story credit also) and, while it frequently verges on self-parody, it’s far too straight-faced in execution to be intentional. Strick was on a hot streak at the time, following Martin Scorsese’s Cape Fear remake (the very definition of over-the-top, but as mechanically made as his later Shutter Island), but his script is shamelessly formulaic.


Top shrink (Isaac Barr, played by ol’ gimlet eyes) embarks on an affair with the sister (Kim Basinger’s Heather) of a troubled patient (Uma Thurman as Diana). Heather’s hubby (Eric Roberts) is a mobster/property developer and all-round Mr. Bastard. When Heather kills him during a fight, apparently suffering from pathological intoxication, Isaac does all he can to get her off the hook. But then he begins to have doubts about her motives.


Analysis is about as subtle with its appropriation of Freudian psychology as Hitchcock’s ridiculous (but entertaining) Spellbound. The difference is that the former was made nearly 50 years later, when no one was much buying into unfiltered Freudian analysis any more. Strick clearly recognises this; he has a lecturer convincingly demolish Sigmund for his lack of insight into the female mind; it’s one of the few scenes that suggests anything other than a stock configuration of the psychological thriller. Diana constantly undercuts Isaac’s therapy by giving smart-arse suggestions of his likely reading of her condition; it’s screaming out that the method is dated and unworkable. This theme is embodied in Isaac himself, the Freudian analyst; he is revealed as a ready dupe who falls hook, line and sinker for the scheme concocted by the two sisters.


But if Joanou appreciates any of this, he doesn’t show it. He seems preoccupied with capturing the picture’s fake-noir a style, engaging with shots rather than plot. The result (partly a fault of the structure, in fairness) is a stop-start pace that fails to intrigue. Joanou is best known for his U2 tour documentary, Rattle and Hum. His features have been inconsequential affairs save for the underrated Irish mob drama State of Grace. Final Analysis might have worked, but only with a different person calling the shots. Verhoeven could have pumped up the sex scenes and revelled in the absurdity. Or Brian De Palma; there’s enormous potential here for split screen and excessively staged set pieces (he would have adored the trading of places between the not-really-very-much-alike-at-all Basinger and Thurman). Better still, he’d have made the cod-psychology as funny as it is in Dressed to Kill. Reportedly, John Boorman had considered directing. God knows why.


Joanou clumsily telegraphs the twists and turns. He tips his hat so badly, you wonder if it’s wilful self-sabotage. He needs to hoodwink the viewer at very least, but he clearly didn’t probe Strick’s plot for holes. Such as, why didn’t the prosecution build their case around the convenient death of Roberts’ brother (who stood to inherit his estate before Heather)? Isaac learns of this not insignificant nugget after the trial. Does no one do basic investigation any more? And the scene where Heather is fooled into thinking two doctors are from the DA’s office requires ludicrous circumstances to succeed (which I guess is why it does).  The trial itself is involving, but I’m a sucker for a trial scene; nevertheless, the collapse of the expert testimony from Dr. Grusin (Rita Zohar) involves the same kind of narrative incompetence just mentioned. Gere also appears to be incredibly unprofessional, talking about his patient’s mental health to others at the drop of a hat.


It’s easy to see why Basinger took the part; it gave her the chance to play bad. But she has none of the alpha-female poise that Sharon Stone gave Catherine Trammell. Indeed, the movie boasts a resoundingly B-movie cast (neither Gere nor Kim exactly pack out theatres). And neither of the leads have the wit to work with the nonsense Strick has served up. Gere is so unfussed, he doesn’t even blink (actually, maybe he blinks) at a line like “He looks at shoes. I look at people’s thoughts”. Uma is more engaging than her co-stars, but her character is sketchy and inconsistent.


So it’s a relief that a couple of players get the tone just right. Roberts oozes malevolence; Gere’s kidding no one when he stands his ground during an encounter in the gents (where he, wait for it… blinks). But the star of the show is Keith David as Detective Huggins, who spends the entire film looking pissed off with Gere and rightly so. His tone of abject disdain is a treat, and he relishes his graceless dialogue (“Don’t yank my dick!”).


I tend to think that it was a foolish move to automate lighthouses; they hold so much atmospheric potential as a movie setting. Analysis completely squanders this, throwing in sub-par effects shots and the very clumsy set up of a loose guardrail outside the lantern room. The storm-lashed climax is utterly generic, and is followed by a silly gag about dating Heather’s sister. Even worse is the coda showing that Diana as a future husband slayer (“Maybe just one sip”). Strick was probably ask to come up with a Hannibal Lecter moment, but should have known better. The same is true of the whole movie really.


The one interesting part of Final Analysis, besides the splendour that is Keith David, is its similarity to this year’s Side Effects. In both movies a psychopathic female inveigles a doctor (one of medicine, one of psychology) into defending her case of spousal murder by reason of temporary insanity. In both cases the plea results from substance abuse (prescription medicine, alcohol). In both cases another woman aids the female antagonist in her plot. In both cases the antagonist is found not guilty but held for observation. In both cases the doctor gets wise to her scheme and pulls the rug from under her, making it appear that she really is loopy. The difference is, Heather escapes her cage in time for the showdown. Oh, and Steven Sodebergh made a much niftier little thriller.

**


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

We live in a twilight world.

Tenet (2020)
(SPOILERS) I’ve endured a fair few confusingly-executed action sequences in movies – more than enough, actually – but I don’t think I’ve previously had the odd experience of being on the edge of my seat during one while simultaneously failing to understand its objectives and how those objectives are being attempted. Which happened a few times during Tenet. If I stroll over to the Wiki page and read the plot synopsis, it is fairly explicable (fairly) but as a first dive into this Christopher Nolan film, I frequently found it, if not impenetrable, then most definitely opaque.

She was addicted to Tums for a while.

Marriage Story (2019)
(SPOILERS) I don’t tend to fall heavily for Noah Baumbach fare. He’s undoubtedly a distinctive voice – even if his collaborations with Wes Anderson are the least of that director’s efforts – but his devotion to an exclusive, rarefied New York bubble becomes ever more off-putting with each new project. And ever more identifiable as being a lesser chronicler of the city’s privileged quirks than his now disinherited forbear Woody Allen, who at his peak mastered a balancing act between the insightful, hilarious and self-effacing. Marriage Story finds Baumbach going yet again where Woody went before, this time brushing up against the director’s Ingmar Bergman fixation.

You can’t climb a ladder, no. But you can skip like a goat into a bar.

Juno and the Paycock (1930)
(SPOILERS) Hitchcock’s second sound feature. Such was the lustre of this technological advance that a wordy play was picked. By Sean O’Casey, upon whom Hitchcock based the prophet of doom at the end of The Birds. Juno and the Paycock, set in 1922 during the Irish Civil War, begins as a broad comedy of domestic manners, but by the end has descended into full-blown Greek (or Catholic) tragedy. As such, it’s an uneven but still watchable affair, even if Hitch does nothing to disguise its stage origins.

Anything can happen in Little Storping. Anything at all.

The Avengers 2.22: Murdersville
Brian Clemens' witty take on village life gone bad is one of the highlights of the fifth season. Inspired by Bad Day at Black Rock, one wonders how much Murdersville's premise of unsettling impulses lurking beneath an idyllic surface were set to influence both Straw Dogs and The Wicker Mana few years later (one could also suggest it premeditates the brand of backwoods horrors soon to be found in American cinema from the likes of Wes Craven and Tobe Hooper).

The protocol actually says that most Tersies will say this has to be a dream.

Jupiter Ascending (2015)
(SPOILERS) The Wachowski siblings’ wildly patchy career continues apace. They bespoiled a great thing with The Matrix sequels (I liked the first, not the second), misfired with Speed Racer (bubble-gum visuals aside, hijinks and comedy ain’t their forte) and recently delivered the Marmite Sense8 for Netflix (I was somewhere in between on it). Their only slam-dunk since The Matrix put them on the movie map is Cloud Atlas, and even that’s a case of rising above its limitations (mostly prosthetic-based). Jupiter Ascending, their latest cinema outing and first stab at space opera, elevates their lesser works by default, however. It manages to be tone deaf in all the areas that count, and sadly fetches up at the bottom of their filmography pile.

This is a case where the roundly damning verdicts have sadly been largely on the ball. What’s most baffling about the picture is that, after a reasonably engaging set-up, it determinedly bores the pants off you. I haven’t enco…

James Bond. You appear with the tedious inevitability of an unloved season.

Moonraker (1979)
Depending upon your disposition, and quite possibly age, Moonraker is either the Bond film that finally jumped the shark or the one that is most gloriously redolent of Roger Moore’s knowing take on the character. Many Bond aficionados will no doubt utter its name with thinly disguised contempt, just as they will extol with gravity how Timothy Dalton represented a masterful return to the core values of the series. If you regard For Your Eyes Only as a refreshing return to basics after the excesses of the previous two entries, and particularly the space opera grandstanding of this one, it’s probably fair to say you don’t much like Roger Moore’s take on Bond.

Twenty dwarves took turns doing handstands on the carpet.

Bugsy (1991)
(SPOILERS) Bugsy is very much a Warren Beatty vanity project (aren’t they all, even the ones that don’t seem that way on the surface?), to the extent of his playing a title character a decade and a half younger than him. As such, it makes sense that producer Warren’s choice of director wouldn’t be inclined to overshadow star Warren, but the effect is to end up with a movie that, for all its considerable merits (including a script from James Toback chock full of incident), never really feels quite focussed, that it’s destined to lead anywhere, even if we know where it’s going.

My dear, sweet brother Numsie!

The Golden Child (1986)
Post-Beverly Hills Cop, Eddie Murphy could have filmed himself washing the dishes and it would have been a huge hit. Which might not have been a bad idea, since he chose to make this misconceived stinker.

He tasks me. He tasks me, and I shall have him.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
(1982)
(SPOILERS) I don’t love Star Trek, but I do love Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. That probably isn’t just me, but a common refrain of many a non-devotee of the series. Although, it used to apply to The Voyage Home (the funny one, with the whales, the Star Trek even the target audience for Three Men and a Baby could enjoy). Unfortunately, its high regard has also become the desperate, self-destructive, song-and-verse, be-all-and-end-all of the overlords of the franchise itself, in whichever iteration, it seems. This is understandable to an extent, as Khan is that rare movie sequel made to transcendent effect on almost every level, and one that stands the test of time every bit as well (better, even) as when it was first unveiled.

When I barked, I was enormous.

Dean Spanley (2008)
(SPOILERS) There is such a profusion of average, respectable – but immaculately made – British period drama held up for instant adulation, it’s hardly surprising that, when something truly worthy of acclaim comes along, it should be singularly ignored. To be fair, Dean Spanleywas well liked by critics upon its release, but its subsequent impact has proved disappointingly slight. Based on Lord Dunsany’s 1939 novella, My Talks with Dean Spanley, our narrator relates how the titular Dean’s imbibification of a moderate quantity of Imperial Tokay (“too syrupy”, is the conclusion reached by both members of the Fisk family regarding this Hungarian wine) precludes his recollection of a past life as a dog. 

Inevitably, reviews pounced on the chance to reference Dean Spanley as a literal shaggy dog story, so I shall get that out of the way now. While the phrase is more than fitting, it serves to underrepresent how affecting the picture is when it has cause to be, as does any re…