Aesthetically Speaking

Tim Ried’s Asunder should’ve and could’ve been a good film

The week’s word on selections from Time Warner Cable’s Movies on Demand Service is fairly disappointing. Surprisingly so, in fact, when you consider that talented director Tim Reid is responsible for one of the lemons and another has Samuel L. Jackson in the lead. The week’s word on selections from Time Warner Cable’s Movies on Demand Service is fairly disappointing. Surprisingly so, in fact, when you consider that talented director Tim Reid is responsible for one of the lemons and another has Samuel L. Jackson in the lead. It is, however, not a total loss.

When you see action-comedy star Jackie Chan’s name, you know right away what to expect. It’ll be a stuntman’s field day, skimpy on plot, tailored to Chan’s self-effacing slapstick and acrobatic display of martial arts. Accordingly, The Tuxedo is a pleasant, tongue-in-cheek romp; entertainment junk food his fans will delightedly gobble up and promptly forget two minutes after it’s over. He plays a speed-happy taxi driver who is befriended by a James Bond-type secret agent and, with the assistance of Jennifer Love Hewitt and a super-powered tux, stands in for the agent to save the world from Peter Stormare’s villainous plan to control the bottled water market. Sounds preposterous? Of course it does. But it’s exactly the kind of lame-brained hi-jinks that made Chan a household name. Taken on its own terms, The Tuxedo, though it won’t win any awards, is enjoyable, lightweight fun.

On the other hand, Formula 51 is a low point in the career of executive producer and star Samuel L. Jackson. Elmo McElroy (Jackson) is a chemist who double-crosses a drug financier in California, then runs around Liverpool’s underworld in a kilt, dragging along a bag of golf clubs, looking for someone else to swindle. It’s supposed to be an off-the-wall comedy, but succeeds only in being off-the-wall. The jokes fall flat, the unwieldy plot is impossible to follow and, by the time, you’re done, you just sit there wondering whether Jackson was half-asleep when whoever it was convinced him to sign on for this project.

Asunder could’ve and should’ve been a fine film. Blair Underwood plays a heartsick, increasingly deranged widower who stalks his best friend’s wife. Michael Beach is the friend and Debbi Morgan is the wife. Not the most imaginative premise one might conceive, but nonetheless intriguing. The problem is director Tim Reid didn’t send the scriptwriters back to the drawing board to flesh out Underwood’s character. Either that, or he cut the scenes that gave this character a life outside making it an impossible pain in the you know what. Reid also leaves the movie desperately short of sustained tension. About a third of the way into it, you stop wondering what’s going to happen next and start waiting for it to be over.

June 2, 2003
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