4-Star film capsules -- Week of February 14

Associated press Published:

"Identity Thief" -- It seems ironic that the title is "Identity Thief" when its co-stars have such a firm grasp on their well-established screen personae. Melissa McCarthy is the brash wild card with an off-kilter sense of humor and an underlying, slightly dangerous streak. Jason Bateman is the initially bemused but increasingly frustrated straight man whose deadpan quips seem to be the only things that keep him sane. These two opposites are stuck on a cross-country road trip together but no one's really going anywhere. Optimally, with a better script, that wouldn't be such a bad thing. Instead, "Identity Thief" strands these two ordinarily enjoyable comics in the middle of nowhere with no help for miles. "Midnight Run," it is not. It's actually not even "Due Date," which felt similarly strained. It's not just that director Seth Gordon ("Horrible Bosses") and screenwriter Craig Mazin (the reheated "Hangover Part II") confuse meanness for hilarity. There's that, including a weirdly uncomfortable thread of homophobia and/or emasculation. More fundamentally, though, the premise is just flawed. Bateman's mild-mannered accounts processor, Sandy Patterson, discovers that a con artist (McCarthy) has stolen his identity and racked up thousands of dollars in charges. They all come from the same place -- Winter Park, Fla. -- and they started weeks ago. But Sandy lives in Denver. Isn't this suspicious? R for sexual content and language. 107 minutes.

H-1/2 stars.

"Side Effects" -- If this is indeed Steven Soderbergh's final film, as he's said it will be after toying with the notion of retirement for a couple of years now, then intriguingly it feels like he's coming full circle in some ways to the film that put him on the map: the trailblazing, 1989 indie "sex, lies and videotape." Both are lurid genre exercises, laid bare. Both focus on the intertwined lives of four central figures, including a scene in which one of the men interviews one of the women on video, hoping to unearth a hidden truth. Both movies are about danger, secrets and manipulation, filled with characters who aren't what they initially seem, all of which Soderbergh depicts with his typically cool detachment. Twists and double crosses occur and schemes are revealed as layer upon layer of Scott Z. Burns' clever script gets peeled away. Yet Soderbergh approaches such dramatic events with the same chilly tone that has marked so much of his work, even as the developments grow more than a little implausible. Rooney Mara is chilling as a troubled Manhattan woman who starts taking a new drug at the urging of her psychiatrist (Jude Law). Bad things happen. Channing Tatum and Catherine Zeta-Jones co-star. R for sexuality, nudity, violence and language. 106 minutes.

HHH-stars.

"Parker" -- This plays like the bloodiest promotional video ever made for Palm Beach tourism. Stabbings, explosions and furniture-smashing brawls occur at some of the ritziest locations within the sun-splashed, pastel-soaked slab of Florida opulence. The city is the setting for a $50 million jewel heist as well as some revenge doled out with the usual machine-like efficiency by Jason Statham. As the title character, the anti-hero of many of the novels by Richard Stark (the pseudonym of the late Donald E. Westlake), Statham is stepping into a well-known persona. But he's not exactly pushing himself outside his comfort zone. Parker is the kind of thief who lives by a civilized, self-imposed code -- one he expects others to adhere to, as well. But this is the same character Statham always plays: quietly cool, dryly British, powerfully lethal. Director Taylor Hackford's rather perfunctory action film is actually more compelling before it even gets to Palm Beach, as Parker makes his way from Ohio to Texas to New Orleans before reaching his final destination. After being double-crossed by his partners (including Michael Chiklis and Wendell Pierce) on a daring robbery of the Ohio State Fair, Parker seeks revenge by tailing them to their next job: hitting the auction of some major jewels that belonged to a late society maven. Jennifer Lopez co-stars as the struggling Palm Beach real estate agent who learns too much and wants a piece of the action, but playing weak and girlish isn't exactly her strong suit. R for strong violence, language throughout and brief sexual content/nudity. 118 minutes.

H-1/2 stars.

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