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Replay (April 4/04)

As far as cinematic experiments go, Replay isn't half bad. The film consists solely of security camera footage, observed after a deadly robbery with two cops providing commentary. It doesn't always work - it's occasionally as exciting as watching, well, security camera footage - but at the movie's core is a genuinely intriguing mystery that the filmmakers invite us to try and solve before the detectives.

Replay gets off to a somewhat rocky start, though, as the idea of watching just security footage is initially jarring. The idea of the movie is that we're seeing exactly what the two investigating officers - Blu (Fisher Stevens) and Scotty (Michael Buscemi) - are looking at, while listening to them make various observations. The majority of the film consists of Blu and Scotty watching the robbery over and over again, except from different angles. This allows them - and us - to slowly piece together exactly what happened, and who the inside person was on the heist.

Director Lee Bonner (who co-wrote the script along with Sean Murphy) effectively sets up the situation for the audience, while the voice-over work from Stevens and Buscemi ensures that we always know what's going on. The robbery itself was evidently filmed using eight digital cameras simultaneously, and as such, the different point of views go together seamlessly. This is exactly the sort of movie that could've been damaged irreparably by lackluster editing, but Murphy proves to be quite adept in that area and does a nice job of keeping things coherent.

The problem with a movie like this, then, is that there aren't any characters for us to connect with. We hear the two cops talking about the case, with occasional references to their personal lives, but neither character ever becomes much more than a narrator. Ditto the onscreen figures, which are mostly spied doing their jobs, which makes it virtually impossible for them to develop as characters. The film's midsection suffers as a result, since it's too soon for Blu and Scotty to start showing us any substantive clues. The movie does, however, pick up in the last half hour, as the pieces of the mystery begin to fall into place.

In the end, Replay likely would've worked better as a short film, though the CSI crowd will surely get more of a kick out of the movie than the average viewer.

out of

© David Nusair