'Final Analysis' is no Hitchcock

February 07, 1992|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Sun Film Critic

LET'S INVENT a new disease. Let's call it "dementia Hitchcox" and define it as a brain inflammation primarily afflicting young movie directors who've seen too much Alfred Hitchcock. In its grip they come to believe the delusion that it is possible to make an Alfred Hitchcock film if they are not Alfred Hitchcock.

"Final Analysis" is a case of "dementia Hitchcox" that ought to go into the textbooks.

The movie is "Vertigo" freeze-dried, calorie-leached, flavor-drained, frozen in a little plastic sack and then fired up in the old Hollywood radar range for a mere $20 million or so. The silky Richard Gere is cast in the Jimmy Stewart part as a naif who falls in love with a blond goddess, which in turn makes him vulnerable to a dastardly plot involving murder. It's some measure of director Phil Joanou's silliness that when he stops stealing from Hitchcock he starts stealing from . . . Lawrence Kasdan? Hasn't he seen "Grand Canyon"?

Actually, Joanou borrows the most interesting parts of his movie from Kasdan's best film, "Body Heat," but also the ugliest parts: you know, the stuff about how women are always trying to do us poor guys in. Kim Basinger is your basic issue femme fatale, from a long line of grasping, violent spider women who've figured all the angles and use men like disposable tissue: The stereotype is still ugly, but worse, it feels antiquated.

But if Joanou borrows the concept, it's too bad he couldn't steal some real body heat.

Gere and Basinger have almost zero chemistry, a fatal flaw in a movie whose motivation derives from the wellspring of instant lust and overwhelming at traction. These two look as if they still remember all that sloshing around in the cold and murky swamp in "No Mercy" and wish they couldn't.

Gere is a psychiatrist, treating a disturbed young woman (Uma Thurman, wasted). Through her, he meets the sister (Basinger) and instantly (it says in the script) falls though the membrane of lust and damnation. The only thing keeping them apart permanently is her oppressively nasty husband, a Greek gangster overplayed by Eric Roberts, but then Eric Roberts always overplays, so why beef? When Roberts gets conked on the skull by Basinger, Gere jumps aboard her legal team and in the movie's least spirited sequence, manages to mastermind her successful defense. Only then does he realize how he's been suckered.

A major difficulty with the film is that it contains no center of sympathy. Gere's silky, smug ways exile him immediately from our concern; he's psychiatrist as American gigolo. When the tables are turned on him, he's still not sympathetic: just a desperate little man trying to lie and connive his way out of an awkward situation.

As for Basinger, her character never comes into focus: She's sultry, pouty in a white-trashy way, but there's nothing else there. She has no inner life, no resonant mystery (as compared with, say, either Kathleen Turner in "Body Heat" or Kim Novak in "Vertigo").

Joanou uses Hitchcock's favorite city, San Francisco, as the backdrop to all this frantic thrashing, but in such a pretentious way the city's magic is lost in film-school pyrotechnics. He'll zoom in dramatically on . . . a man getting out of a car. And you think, Wow! That man just got out of that car! The music, by George Fenton, is equally bombastic and banal. I won't deny the movie has a certain low charm, but it should have been faster, more clever, more deadly. It only reminds us how we miss the real Hitchcock.

'Final Analysis'

Starring Richard Gere and Uma Thurman.

Directed by Phil Joanou.

Released by Warner Bros.

Rated R.

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