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The Films of Curtis Hanson

Sweet Kill

The Little Dragons

Losin' It

The Children of Times Square

The Bedroom Window

Bad Influence (February 14/15)

Bad Influence casts James Spader as Michael Boll, an uptight executive whose comfortable life is seriously shaken up by a mysterious and charismatic figure named Alex (Rob Lowe) - with the movie detailing the chaos that inevitably ensues as Alex's behavior grows more and more menacing. It's clear that Bad Influence doesn't become interesting until about the halfway mark, as the movie, prior to that point, essentially comes off as a fairly generic story about a burgeoning friendship between two very different people - with both Spader and Lowe unable to transform their somewhat one-dimensional characters into wholeheartedly compelling figures. And although Michael's transformation from straightlaced everyman to violent criminal occurs awfully quickly, Bad Influence admittedly improves substantially once Alex drops his charming facade and becomes a flat-out villain - with Lowe's entertainingly sinister performance going a long way towards keeping things interesting. (It's odd, however, that Alex's sociopathic behavior is never satisfactorily explained; ie what's his motive for all this?) The engaging atmosphere doesn't last long, unfortunately, as scripter David Koepp offers up a generic third act that devolves into one long cat-and-mouse chase sequence - with the inevitable climax arriving with more of a whimper than a bang. It's ultimately difficult not to wish filmmaker Curtis Hanson had focused more on Alex's malevolent shenanigans, as there's little doubt that Bad Influence fares best whenever Spader's character is being harassed and attacked by his newfound nemesis.

out of

The Hand That Rocks the Cradle

The River Wild

L.A. Confidential

Wonder Boys

8 Mile

In Her Shoes (January 27/06)

It's not difficult to imagine the majority of male viewers having a tough time with In Her Shoes, which is - unapologetically - a chick flick through and through. The film revolves around a pair of sisters that couldn't possibly be any more different: Rose (Toni Collette) is a hard-working lawyer with low self-esteem, while Maggie (Cameron Diaz) has always relied on her looks to get by. Featuring a screenplay by Susannah Grant (working from Jennifer Weiner's novel) and direction from Curtis Hanson, In Her Shoes is - more often than not - an entertaining, genuinely touching look at the fractured relationship between these disparate siblings. Diaz and Collette deliver exceptionally strong performances (Diaz, in particular, nicely sends up her ditzy persona), effectively transforming their initially off-putting characters into figures worth rooting for and caring about. And though Grant's script occasionally delves into melodramatic and sentimental territory, there's no denying that In Her Shoes generally comes off as an honest and believable piece of work (which, despite a running time of over two hours, never feels overlong - a feat in itself).

out of

Lucky You (May 2/07)

It's not hard to see why Lucky You's been having problems securing a release date over the last few years, as the film ultimately possesses very little mainstream appeal (ie this certainly isn't the lightweight romantic comedy that the trailers have been promising). Saddled with an overlong running time and an exceedingly deliberate pace, the movie generally has the feel and tone of a low-key character study - with Eric Bana cast as Huck Cheever, a charismatic yet thoroughly compulsive poker player whose inability to walk away from a bet has essentially left him devoid of a personal life. The romantic subplot - revolving around Huck's on-again-off-again relationship with a would-be singer (played by Drew Barrymore) - is undoubtedly the least interesting element within Curtis Hanson and Eric Roth's screenplay, and there's little doubt that the inclusion of several other needless moments (coupled with a sporadic ten dancy to focus on the minutia of poker) ensures that the film is never entirely as compelling as one imagines it's supposed to be. Yet it's impossible to completely dismiss Lucky You; Bana's subtle performance is matched by an expectedly engaging turn from Robert Duvall as Huck's shady father, while director Hanson does a nice job of infusing the proceedings with a refreshingly laid-back vibe.

out of

Too Big to Fail (May 30/11)

Directed by Curtis Hanson, Too Big to Fail chronicles the 2008 financial meltdown from the perspective of several key figures - including Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson (William Hurt), Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke (Paul Giamatti), and Lehman Brothers Chief Executive Officer Dick Fuld (James Woods). Hanson, working from a script by Peter Gould, wastes little time in jumping straight into the thick of the action, with the filmmaker's get-to-the-point sensibilities preventing the viewer from working up any interest in the movie's myriad of subplots. Far more problematic, however, is the almost total lack of character development, as Hanson offers up one paper-thin real-life figure after another and somehow expects the viewer to sympathize with and care about their ongoing exploits. (This is despite the presence of an almost ridiculous number of familiar faces in the film's various roles, including, among others, Tony Shalhoub, Billy Crudup, Matthew Modine, and Topher Grace.) There is, as a result, a lack of momentum here that proves utterly disastrous, and although Hanson has admittedly sprinkled the proceedings with a handful of compelling moments (eg Bill Pullman's Jamie Dimon delivers an impassioned speech to a room full of executives), Too Big to Fail ultimately comes off as a talky, surprisingly dull drama that all-too-often feels a reenactment on a financial news network.

out of

© David Nusair