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  Killing Me Softly A Mountain To ClimbBuy this film here.
Year: 2002
Director: Chen Kaige
Stars: Heather Graham, Joseph Fiennes, Natascha McElhone, Ulrich Thomsen, Ian Hart, Jason Hughes, Kika Markham, Amy Robbins, Yasmin Bannerman, Rebecca R. Palmer, Ronan Vibert, Olivia Poulet, Ian Aspinall, Helen Grace, Oliver Ryan, Donald Gee, Tim Faraday
Genre: Thriller
Rating:  4 (from 2 votes)
Review: It was just another January morning for American in London Alice (Heather Graham). She lived in the city with her English boyfriend, working for an internet company, and thought she was pretty much settled - but maybe too settled, as that day she happened to press the pedestrian crossing button and her fingers brushed those of a mystery man doing the same. She could not get his good looks out of her mind all the way to her office, and as he was going in the same direction she noted he went into the bookshop across the road...

That was how Alice got mixed up with celebrity mountaineer Adam Tallis, played by Joseph Fiennes with ludicrous, brooding menace, his enigmatic stares marking this out early on as both a bad idea for her to get involved with, and a good idea for those who like a very camp thriller to unfold before them. This was based on the Nicci French novel (Roberta Flack features nowhere - Play Misty for Me this is not), but once again went to demonstrate that what could be a perfectly acceptable page-turner would quite often end up as approximating a laugh riot when translated to the big screen. OK, it wasn't sidesplitting from beginning to end, but parts were very funny, albeit wholly unintentionally.

What this wanted to be was making as big an impact that Basic Instinct did in the sex suspenser genre, but as Paul Verhoeven revolutionised that style he also created the ne plus ultra into the bargain: you simply could not outdo that cult classic if you tried, not that it put many off seeking blockbuster profits, only to find their efforts a laughing stock left hoping to make its money back on home video at some point, where the pause button could get a workout at least. Certainly Heather Graham was no Sharon Stone, which was just as well as it was Joseph Fiennes who was meant to be Shaz in this case, which should give you some idea of the absurdity of the enterprise.

Doing everything to make his lusty but dangerous character as sinister as possible, all Adam needed was a top hat, cape to swish and black moustache to twirl and he would be set for a night of lashing maidens to railway tracks. As it was, he had to settle with lashing Alice to the kitchen table: he likes a spot of kinky sex, you see, and accommodating her new love she's into that for a while until she begins to wonder if this is entirely healthy. But not before she gets married to the rogue, knowing nothing about him except he was the survivor of a disastrous mountaineering expedition that has made him famous - though - ulp! - did he actually orchestrate the whole affair to give himself a villainous thrill? Is Adam to all intents and purposes a raving nutter?

And why didn't our wide-eyed heroine realise that being called Alice Tallis was actually pretty daft? Moreover, what attracted a noble Chinese film director such as Chen Kaige, who had made the much-admired Farewell My Concubine a mere ten years before, to this silliness? Silliness which included Alice and Adam going for a honeymoon hike straight after the wedding, yet not before Heather has stripped off to change so we can all get a good look at her assets, and all this in the depths of January, remember? She must have had the constitution of a reindeer. In the meantime the miscast star offered a dismayingly amateurish performance, as if this relocation away from her usual haunts had been detrimental to making her in any way convincing, but then nobody emerged from this looking especially good. Throw in a twist ending as likely to make you giggle as the rest of it, and you had a film that was embarrassing for its talent, but curiously compelling as a failure providing you liked a laugh. Music by Patrick Doyle.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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