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November 26 - December 3, 1999

[Movie Reviews]

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Robert De Niro has never sung before in a movie, and after you watch Flawless, it's easy to see why. His rasping, off-key efforts are, however, right in tune with this discordant mess of clichés, sentiment, and hypocrisy that is Joel Schumacher's follow-up to 8MM.

It starts with promise. Walt Koontz (De Niro), a retired security guard, makes his way through the back streets of his Manhattan neighborhood, and the sequence is shot and cut with an eye for rhythms and detail that almost create a world. Credibility declines as Rusty (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his retinue of screaming queens shout catcalls from the window next door, and further still when, late at night, service revolver in hand, Walt rushes to the rescue of neighbors terrorized by hoodlums, only to drop from a stroke. Stumbling home later from the hospital like a broken insect, he sits partially paralyzed in his crummy room and holds his gun to his head.

Too bad he doesn't pull the trigger. Instead, as therapy he takes singing lessons from the despised Rusty, and the two, of course, slowly put aside their mutual antipathy and prejudices and, well, harmonize. To keep this from getting too sappy, Schumacher throws in a stolen-money/avenging-mobster subplot and touches of Dog Day Afternoon, as well as a scattering of coy movie allusions. All for nought: the only thing that keeps the title from being totally ironic is the performance of Hoffman, though his drag act is even worse than De Niro's singing.

-- Peter Keough

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