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Original Sin

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Dangerous Liaisons in the Tub: Angelina Jolie and Antonio Banderas conserve water.

© 2001, MGM
All Rights Reserved

"Original Sin" (IMDb listing) is about deep psychological love. The kind of love that topples empires, makes men kill, and gives a reason as to why a band like Air Supply was so popular. Starring Antonio Banderas and newly-minted action heroine Angelina Jolie, "Original Sin" is the perfect film for those who enjoy romance novels that have strapping hunks caressing buxom, raven-haired woman on the covers. For the rest of us, "Sin" is about as ridiculous a movie as they come. To call it simply over the top just isn't doing it justice.

Luis (Banderas), a rich coffee baron living in Cuba, is looking to enrich his fortunes with a mail order bride named Julia (Jolie). An enchanting, deeply sexual young thing, Julia steers Luis into a torrid love affair that involves his trust and her ample sexuality. As the two begin to grow closer, Luis finds that Julia's tales of her family in America are not as truthful as he originally thought. With the help of a private investigator (Thomas Jane, "Deep Blue Sea"), Luis sets out to uncover Julia's past and to regain his own sanity.

For the first 30 minutes, "Original Sin" lulls you into a deep sexual trance due to the power of the two leads, Jolie and Banderas. Two ultra-good looking people, the actors are also some of the last remnants of method acting currently on the screen. Masterful talents, these actors would bend over backwards to find the spine of a scene, then spend the rest of their powers exploring every last emotional truth. Put one or the other in a film, and you've got something special. "Sin" goes one further and tempts fate by placing both of these actors in the same movie.

Jolie and Banderas literally explode on the screen in a volcano of lust and intercourse, often turning the mid-budgeted "Sin" into something resembling a low-budgeted flick that would normally star Shannon Tweed and Andrew Stevens. It's notable to see some good old fashion sex put back on the screen—and "Sin" doesn't shy away from nudity—yet the strength of these actors, and the sheer energy that they emit, places a heavy weight on the rest of the picture. You could say that Jolie and Banderas are so talented that they suffocate the rest of the film. Burdened with a lousy script and an even worse director (Michael Cristofer, "Gia" and "Body Shots"), the two leads work overtime to sew together this mess of a movie, yet in the end, all their efforts are in vain.

The leads aren't helped by a shamefully disastrous supporting turn by Thomas Jane as the investigator. A lousy actor, Jane embarrasses himself by trying to keep up with Jolie with some method inventions of his own. One scene calls for Jane to overcome Jolie and showcase his dominance. A slap across the cheek? That would work. Maybe even a carefully chosen, profanity-laden diatribe? Brilliant! Sadly, Jane decides to spit in Jolie's mouth when she tries to talk him out of his rage. I wish I were kidding. As deliciously absurd a move as this is, it pretty much sums up the vicious overextending that the actors have to do to make this lethargic dud seem mobile.

The theatrical nature of the performances comes directly from Cristofer, himself a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright. Nevertheless, the film is often so campy that it would make John Waters wince.

But are people lining up to see acting? I'm not so sure. Being so openly erotic in the advertising, "Original Sin" sets itself up as soft-core pornography, and I guess in hindsight, it is. A lot of sexual ground is covered in this picture: heterosexuality, homosexuality, even a little sadomasochism. Fun? It could've been if it wasn't shot in such a Playboy Channel way. "Original Sin" aspires to be a deeply felt psychological thriller along the lines of "Fatal Attraction" or "Basic Instinct," but something went seriously wrong along the way. It ends up being a handsomely mounted, yet severely second-guessed film that fails to fulfill the one promise that is made in the opening credits: it doesn't turn you on.

Filmfodder Grade: D-

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