The Rich Man's Wife

on September 13, 1996 by Wade Major
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   An embarrassing hodge-podge of far-fetched contrivances and genre cliches, "The Rich Man's Wife" should fast find itself banished to the video shelf netherworld of forgettable "Hitchcockian" thrillers. Culling its "influences" from sources as diverse as "Strangers on a Train," "Dial M for Murder," "Basic Instinct" and even last year's "The Usual Suspects," this relatively spare suspenser casts Halle Berry as the unhappy wife of a wealthy TV executive (Christopher McDonald) whose sudden, brutal murder immediately turns all eyes on Berry. The real killer, of course, is an obsessive psychotic named Cole (Peter Greene) who, miffed over Berry's rejection of his "affections" during a brief encounter in the Washington wilds, has followed the couple back to L.A. to wreak havoc with their lives.
   The remainder of the film alternates between a series of predictable "twists" and "boo!" scenes that feature Berry either running for her life or looking scared in her big, dark house. To her credit, Berry manages to make considerably more of the sparse and stereotypical role than one might have imagined, as does the up-and-coming Greene ("The Usual Suspects" and "Clean, Shaven"), whose steely gaze and stony face transform an otherwise ludicrous character into a believable menace. Other performances are average, notably that of McDonald, whose sleazeball husband reads like an amalgam of his previous sleazeballs drained of all vestiges of personality.
   Writer/director Amy Holden Jones, best known for her "Indecent Proposal" and "Mystic Pizza" screenplays, does a better job here as a director than a writer, but that still doesn't say much. Overall, the film ranks roughly in the same territory with her last directorial outing, "Maid to Order." Typically first-rate photography by Haskell Wexler and a serviceably "Herrmannesque" score by John Frizzell smooth out a few of the rougher edges.    Starring Halle Berry, Christopher McDonald, Clive Owen and Peter Greene. Directed and written by Amy Holden Jones. Produced by Roger Birnbaum and Julie Bergman Sender. A Buena Vista release. Thriller. Rated R for strong violence and language. Running time: 92 min.
Tags: Halle Berry, Christopher McDonald, Clive Owen, Peter Greene, Directed and written by Amy Holden Jones, Produced by Roger Birnbaum, Julie Bergman Sender, A Buena Vista release, Thriller, sterotypical, predictable, sleazeballs, personality, wreak havoc
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