Love Walked In

on February 20, 1998 by Kim Williamson
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   An underpowered film noir, this adaptation of the novel "Ni El Tiro Del Final" by Jose Pablo Feinmann never develops the darkness the genre demands. The genre elements are trotted out, but they never cohere into a tale that feels authentic. In part, that's because the two central romances--between Jack, a sarcastic piano player ("Two If By Sea's" Denis Leary), and his sultry singer/wife Vicky ("A Walk in the Clouds'" Aitana Sanchez-Gijon), and between a wealthy older man named Fred ("Bliss'" Terence Stamp) who begins to desire her--never seem real, only assigned by the filmmaker.
   Argentinean writer/director Juan Jose Campanella ("The Boy Who Cried Bitch") also never makes this version's stateside setting work. The honky-tonk in which the husband and wife play never merits the this-is-the-place attentions paid it, and the beach town in which the action plays out appears to be a boring burg--hardly an abode to achieve noir. This apathy carries over into Campanella's characters: Leary's Jack, who introduces his wife's vocals by first berating his audience for not matching his supposed existential wisdom, comes across as a singularly low-wattage thinker, with the originality of a sociologist's parrot; as Vicky, the pristinely beautiful Sanchez-Gijon is simply too sweet to be smoky; and Stamp, although again able to perform his weariness-of-the-world signature, has nothing else of note to do with his character. He's a Fred, indeed.
   Even a blackmail plot, in which Vicky will vamp for Fred until there's enough evidence to frame him for millions lest his rich wife be told, plays out with the energy of an afterthought, as in the genre's requisite death, which occurs when Jack's scheming private-dick friend (Michael Badalucco) bumps his car into a trash bin with sufficient force to, maybe, dent his bumper. When the camera reveals his bloody corpse inside the car, one wants to laugh. Holding this back from "Airplane!"-like genre spoofage are the players' determined turns and the writer/director's determination to show his artsiness by including a film-within-a-film about a Cain and Abel brother duo. Although Campanella succeeds only in making fartsiness, at least he does it bad enough so that you don't want to laugh any more. You just want to leave.    Starring Denis Leary, Aitana Sanchez-Gijon and Terence Stamp. Directed and written by Juan Jose Campanella. Produced by Ricardo Freixa and Denis Leary. A Triumph release. Drama. Rated R for sexuality, language and some violence. Running time: 91 min.
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