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Directed by David Cronenberg.
Written by Patrick McGrath, based on his novel. 
Starring Ralph Fiennes, Miranda Richardson and Gabriel Byrne.
Release Year:  2002 
Review Date:  3/14/03 


The Sunday Night Film Club group checked out David Cronenberg’s latest film this past weekend, and much like last week’s films, one word comes to mind:


Now, “Spider” is not nearly as bad as either “Gerry” or “Cradle 2 the Grave”, mind you, but one of the guys in the group left the theater and was so angry about the ending to “Spider” that I thought he was going to fly to Cronenberg’s house right then and there and slaughter him.  Ralph Fiennes stars as Spider, a crazy guy that is having flashbacks of his abusive childhood at the hands of his father (Gabriel Byrne) and mother (Miranda Richardson) in an East London of the recent past.  I would tell you more about the plot—involving some sort of murder and some sort of weird identity-swapping—but, the ending does nothing to tell me what was real and what was imagined, so I am left dumbfounded at what I have seen.

I was reading one of the film’s posters outside of the theater and Elvis Mitchell from the New York Times called the film “Cronenberg’s best direction ever.”  I realized that this praise would make more sense if Cronenberg had done a lot of great films...but, then I had to look up his other films and see which ones were any good.  I did like “The Fly.”  “Naked Lunch” wasn’t too bad.  But, “Crash” was horrible.  “Dead Ringers” was no good.  “Scanners”?  Nah-ah.  “The Dead Zone” had some moments, but I didn’t feel like that movie was great or anything.  So, overall, maybe this Cronenberg guy is a bit overrated, no?

And, “Spider” did nothing to change my mind.  Fiennes continues to amaze me; his talent is obvious to even those that don’t regularly see films...but, why did he make “Maid in Manhattan”?  Or, for that matter, “The Avengers”?  Here in “Spider”, his character seems to have a problem speaking in intelligible sounds, so we are left to watch him look freaked out and scared, even if he is quite good at those emotions.  I normally enjoy Byrne’s performances, but he is useless here, and Richardson plays multiple roles here which leave a lot to be desired.  The film’s plot (adapted by the author of the book on which the film is based) seems to be missing something...oh, wait, the reason why Spider has flashbacks?  Yes, but...maybe, an explanation for the multiple appearances of Richardson?  Possible, but maybe...ahh, how about anything interesting for the first 20 minutes of the film?

One thing that all of us agreed on after leaving the theater was the beautiful-looking print that Cronenberg achieves with “Spider”; the lighting of every scene is picture-perfect, as is the cinematography by Peter Suschitzky (it took some digging, but he also served the same role on “The Empire Strikes Back”).  The score is also a good match for the onscreen action—spooky, serious, dark, moody...perfect for the action taking place.

But, you don’t really care about that, do you?  If you don’t, then skip “Spider” until it comes on Showtime sometime late this year.

Rating:  Rental


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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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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