The Gingerbread Man
Director: Robert Altman. Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Embeth Davidtz, Robert Downey Jr., Daryl Hannah, Robert Duvall, Tom Berenger, Famke Janssen, Mae Whitman, Jesse James. Screenplay: Al Hayes.

Standard John Grisham fare—a "brilliant" Southern lawyer of already-questionable moral fiber is thrown into a cyclone of trickeries and deceptions—is elevated to legitimate cinema by the reliable touch of director Robert Altman. Altman knows we're bored by now with all the lawyerisms and faux-epiphanies of the Grisham films (though The Gingerbread Man is original to the screen, not a book adaptation) and instead concentrates on evoking the mossy, wild bewitchments of Savannah, Georgia, that completely eluded Clint Eastwood's lead-bellied Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Vibrant performances from Kenneth Branagh and the increasingly promising Embeth Davidtz keep the story moving along, and the cinematography of Farewell My Concubine's Gu Changwei is a special treat.

In other words, there was no reason for this film to have died at the box office as it did, and—in what may be the direct cause of that unfortunate failure—there was no reason for the producing studio to dump the film into the January doldrums and show so little confidence in the picture. Don't let the film's negative reputation, or lack of any reputation at all, dissuade you from renting. It won't change your life or show you anything you haven't seen, but it will shake the same old ingredients up into a percolating couple of hours that rarely lag and hold together tightly until a somewhat protracted, Cape Fear-type denouement aboard a boat. Till then, smooth sailing, folks. Take a bite! B–

Permalink Home 1998 ABC Blog E-Mail