The Boys from Brazil (January 31/02)
The Boys from Brazil takes an exceedingly silly concept - one of the Third Reich's old doctors has created 94 Hitler clones for eventual world domination - and treats it so seriously, that you almost want to give the movie the respect it asks for. Almost.
Gregory Peck stars as Joseph Mengela, former doctor to Adolph Hitler and all-around bad guy. He's devised a scheme to bring back his leader in the guise of a clone, and - as the movie opens - is commanding some former associates to go around the world and kill 94 old men. He's looking to recreate the circumstances of Hitler's childhood, a major event of which was the death of his 65-year-old father when he was 14. On the flipside of that coin is a famous Nazi hunter, played by Laurence Olivier, determined to stop Peck's fiendish plan.
The majority of The Boys from Brazil follows the same formula: We watch as Peck hatches and plots a devious scheme; Olivier works to discover what Peck is up to; and the various Nazi's in Peck's employ traverse the world offing 65-year-olds. This is repeated for a good hour, until finally Peck and Olivier come face to face. And while that meeting is electric - reminiscent of that coffee shop encounter between DeNiro and Pacino in Heat - it's about the only thing in The Boys from Brazil that manages to generate any excitement. An early film appearance by Steve Guttenberg - as an intrepid (and doomed) Jew - is interesting, but he vacates the picture soon after he appears.
The Boys from Brazil is based on a book by Ira Levin (Rosemary's Baby, The Stepford Wives) and how he even thought of such a bizarre concept is beyond me. But he did and this is the movie we're stuck with. I suppose it's worth checking out if only to see Peck playing a truly despicable character - Atticus Finch this is not - but really, there's not much here. Take out the various old-guys-getting-murdered sequences, and you're not left with much.
The Boys from Brazil certainly could have been worse - take away Peck and Olivier and you're left with a 3rd rate straight-to-video suckfest starring Eric Roberts - but given the caliber of the cast and crew, it should have been a whole lot better.