Monday, January 2, 2012

When Even Sex Won't Sell . . . Original Sin

The Good:?, Moments of Banderas' acting, Gregory Itzin
The Bad: Terrible plot, Idiotic characters, Mostly bad acting
The Basics: In an utterly forgettable movie about a con artist in Cuba, the only worthwhile moments come with glimpses of actors acting and, I suppose, breasts. Sigh. Original Sin is a waste.

I'm not quite sure why I sat down and watched Original Sin, the box was labeled as a thriller that would keep me guessing. They never do. Moreover, it was listed as an "erotic thriller" and they almost never are. I mean, really; either it's a complete tease where it's not actually erotic or it's a movie that shows everything, but has no plot or character and is not erotic. The last truly erotic thing I watched was an episode of Angel wherein Cordelia and Angel find themselves under a spell and they come close the making love. Real tension, characters I care about, genuine eroticism. Original Sin was a colossal waste of time.

A young con artist named Julia, posing as a mail-order bride for Luis, arrives in Cuba and promptly robs Luis blind. Luis becomes obsessed with tracking down his duplicitous wife and discovers her living under a different name working over other marks. Luis and Julia team up for a time until, lo and behold, Julia's psychopathic pimp comes looking for her. Luis is again betrayed, Julia again flees and this keeps happening. The thing is, Luis keeps going back to Julia with love and is each time betrayed because he never sees her as the con-artist she actually is, believing - quite blindly - that the love he has for her could not be faked. Through a series of double crosses and reversals, Julia and Luis grow together and we, the audience, could not care less.

There are moments when Antonio Banderas glows as an actor in Original Sin. His rage at being betrayed is a great illustration of human passion and his ability to perform makes his wretchedly stupid character almost sympathetic at some moments. The other bright spot is the presence of Gregory Itzin. Itzin is a character actor who appears in things (last I saw him, he was in a cellular phone commercial) and he's an all around nice guy. I met him a few years ago and he was friendly, humble and likable. I like seeing him get work and even his minor role as the lovestruck Colonel Worth made me happy in this movie.

The fundamental problem with Original Sin is that it is not terribly original, nor are any of the characters interesting or likable. Luis is an idiot who takes what could be an emotively reasonable quest for revenge and turns it into a recurring nightmare of a dimwit too proud to see or know when he is beaten and used. His pathetic desire to be loved by Julia is almost as mystifying as his belief that he loves this con-artist he never truly knew. That he is so moronic in his devotion to a woman who clearly has a sinister agenda - a fact she makes abundantly clear to even the stupidest individual - makes him boring and nonsensical. Much of his character reads as a parody of the lovestruck mark. Unfortunately, this is not a parody of an erotic thriller.

Which leads us to Julia herself. Julia is a character that is hard to like and the lone moment the audience feels any real pathos for her is when she is about to be gang raped and she surrenders with body language that makes it implicit that she has been so violated in her past. Outside that moment of acceptance, Julia is a flat-out con who the viewer knows better than to trust. Unfortunately, none of the other characters in Original Sin are as smart as we are. Julia is unlikable, made more so by the fact that she has several opportunities throughout Original Sin to reform herself into a heroic character and instead, she simply makes Luis into a worse man.

Who wants to watch Original Sin? Not me. I suppose if you're looking to see Angelina Jolie naked, this is a fine place for it. The sex scenes are fairly explicit and Jolie's tattoos proclaiming her love for Billy Bob Thorton make it clear that they are not using a body double. But if you're in the mood for something more than that, a real thriller, there are better outlets with actual characters that are worth watching, I highly recommend The Usual Suspects or Bound instead. They are worth your time.

This is not.

For other works with Gregory Itzin, please be sure to check out my reviews of:
The Ides Of March
The Change-Up


For other movie reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2012, 2004 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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