The Films of Jon Amiel
Queen of Hearts
Tune in Tomorrow...
Copycat (August 7/11)
A striking, consistently engaging thriller, Copycat follows agoraphobic psychologist Helen Hudson (Sigourney Weaver) as she reluctantly agrees to help the police track down a vicious serial killer - with Helen's fragile mental state causing the lead detective on the case, Holly Hunter's M.J. Monahan, no end of consternation. Director Jon Amiel, working from Ann Biderman and David Madsen's screenplay, opens Copycat with an absolutely enthralling pre-title sequence revolving around Helen's frightening encounter with a seriously deranged fan (Harry Connick Jr's Daryll Lee Cullum), with the strength of this sequence certainly forcing the viewer to wonder if the film has peaked before it's even hit the five-minute mark. Fortunately, Amiel does a superb job of packing the remainder of the proceedings with a number of equally captivating interludes - with the inherently compelling narrative heightened by the efforts of a uniformly stellar cast. Weaver and Hunter step into their respective roles with an ease that's nothing short of remarkable, while the movie's periphery players, including Dermot Mulroney, William McNamara, and Will Patton, effectively perpetuate the film's irresistible atmosphere of tense authenticity. There's little doubt, however, that the taut pace starts to slacken in its second half, with the slightly overlong running time ensuring that the movie simply isn't able to sustain its impressively suspenseful vibe from start to finish. (Having said that, the film admittedly does recover nicely for an engrossing climax.) It's ultimately clear that Copycat deserves a place alongside Se7en and The Silence of the Lambs as a superior serial-killer thriller, with the palpable chemistry between Weaver and Hunter certainly setting the film apart from its similarly-themed brethren.
The Man Who Knew Too Little
Though it boasts a seemingly foolproof premise, The Man Who Knew Too Little ultimately comes off as a misguided and terminally unfunny disaster that's rarely as appealing or entertaining as star Bill Murray's typically charismatic performance. The film follows Murray's Wallace Ritchie, an affable, simple-minded American, as he arrives in London to surprise his brother (Peter Gallagher's James), with problems ensuing as Wallace finds himself embroiled in a shady scheme involving murder and mayhem. (The twist being that Wallace is under the impression that all the excitement is part of an elaborate audience-participation game.) It's difficult to pinpoint exactly where The Man Who Knew Too Little goes wrong, as the film admittedly does boast a number of exceedingly positive attributes - with Murray's comedic turn complemented by a strong supporting cast and a number of promising set pieces. The effectiveness of the film's initial sequences - eg Wallace's encounter with a couple of bewildered street toughs - pave the way for a frenetic and progressively desperate midsection that slowly-but-surely drains the viewer's interest, with the inclusion of an almost mindbogglingly misguided finale ultimately confirming The Man Who Knew Too Little's place as a misfire of disastrous proportions.
The Core (April 17/15)
The Core details the chaos that ensues after it's revealed that the planet's center has stopped spinning, with the narrative subsequently following several individuals as they're sent to repair the damage in an experimental subterranean ship. It's a fairly irresistible premise that's employed to consistently lackluster effect, as filmmaker Jon Amiel, working from Cooper Layne and John Rogers' screenplay, proves unable to wholeheartedly draw the viewer into the proceedings for the duration of The Core's overlong running time - with the decision to essentially focus on one storyline exacerbating each and every one of the movie's problems. (There is, it turns out, a reason films of this ilk generally contain a raft of subplots.) The heavy emphasis on the aforementioned crew's continuing exploits results in a preponderance of less-than-enthralling mission-based minutia, with virtually the entirety of the film's midsection revolving around the characters' efforts at making repairs and completing specific tasks. And while there are a few compelling sequences sprinkled here and there - eg a character sacrifices his life to ensure the mission's success - The Core's atmosphere of pervasive mediocrity ultimately makes it impossible to work up any enthusiasm for the expectedly larger-than-life third act.