Monday, March 23, 2009

3/18/09: Dead Again (1991)

Fortunately, my friend Jay was around to point out all the ways this movie was confusing and cliche-ridden—not that I couldn't have figured that out on my own, but it was nice to have confirmation. Kenneth Branagh, the Amazing Lipless Wonder, stars as a private detective who tries to help an amnesiac victim (the always great Emma Thompson) figure out who she is. An antique dealer who dabbles in hypnosis (Derek Jacobi) puts her in a trance and starts to learn more about her past life than her present one. While there are some admittedly intriguing plot twists, the story is a little too preposterous for its own good, with some shockingly low-budget effects that had us howling (the flimsy giant pair of scissors that dispatch one character was the worst offender). Branagh, who plays two roles in the movie, probably bit off a little more than he could chew by also directing; I was frankly embarrassed by how badly he played the (contemporary) private eye, Mike Church, whereas he is obviously much more comfortable as his "Shakespearian" past-life character, Roman Strauss. In a minor role, Robin Williams does a much better job in one of his earliest serious performances, but Wayne Knight of Seinfeld fame is downright annoying as a newspaperman with a ridiculous speech impediment. And speaking of speech impediments, the climax of the film calls for Derek Jacobi to reprise his I, Claudius stutter—only one of the unintentionally hilarious scenes in Dead Again. It's a pity; this actually could have been a decent suspense yarn with some different people involved. Rating: 2/5.

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