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Directed by Gavin Hood.
Written by Kelley Sane.
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Reese Witherspoon, Peter Sarsgaard and Meryl Streep.
Release Year:  2007
Review Date:  10/16/07


The setup for "Rendition" is quite intriguing--an Egyptian man, a Green Card holder, who has been living in the US for 20 years, Anwar El-Ibrahimi (Omar Metwally), is snatched from an airport near Washington by...our own government!  As he is suspected of being a terrorist following a suicide bombing somewhere in North Africa, Anwar is transported to a prison somewhere overseas where he gets tortured and interrogated because our government thinks he has knowledge behind the bombing.  But, we know from the onset that he DOESN'T have this knowledge, so what are we going to do?

Directed by Gavin Hood (he did "Tsotsi" a couple of years ago), this film seems to have everything going for it: hot director, hot topic, hot cast members like Jake Gyllenhaal and Reese Witherspoon...but, for some reason, after the smoke clears and we get down to the business of mystery, bombing suspects, water torture and the like, the movie somehow loses steam all the way until its reasonably-cool ending wraps things up.  I saw this for free tonight and I think that folks in my audience never really seemed on edge, because there isn't anything edge-worthy; Witherspoon fans didn't really seem to be that enthralled by her performance, because it was fairly weak; Meryl Streep shows up as the CIA director who authorizes the "rendition" (snatch/torture operation), but she is somewhat uninteresting, given that it's Meryl Streep; there is a subplot of a romance between two people that was really poorly done, but you know it has relevance to the plot so you have to stay on your toes with that; the coolest character in the movie, the foreign prison head who conducts the torture of Anwar (played by Yigal Naor), is also the most underutilized.

So, "Rendition" has this multicultural, spanning-the-globe, action-everywhere feeling (like a "Syriana", for example), but none of the separate pieces gets you all that fired up.  And, there you sit, waiting for one piece of it to really get you jazzed up...but, from what I could tell, it didn't come for me AND it didn't come for our audience.  I think that many people left happy, but I left feeling like there was cash on the table that the filmmakers left out there, since there are holes in the terrorist evidence on Anwar, there's a shadiness to the Gyllenhaal character and his girlfriend/love interest that is never explained, it seems like everyone has a Latin housekeeper and I still wish that someone could have explained why the bald torture guy/badass had a fucked-up right hand.

Given all of that, "Rendition" is still a very watchable and occasionally funny movie.  It's just that there's plenty of untapped potential that left me hangin'.  Don't need to see this puppy again, that's for sure!

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09