The Wisdom of Crocodiles

on July 14, 2000 by Susan Green
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   The cinema of chilliness, sacrificing human warmth for style, resurfaces in this offbeat thriller masquerading as a love story.
   The character played by Jude Law, resembling a zombie-like Laurence Harvey in "The Manchurian Candidate," is not exactly a vampire even though he's partial to blood. Steven Griscz, Law's hero-villain in "The Wisdom of Crocodiles," uses his ice-cold handsomeness to lure the women he must drink dry during sex to survive.
   By day, Steven is a successful medical researcher. By night, he carefully catalogues souvenirs of the partners he has dispatched to kingdom come. Among the deceased is Maria (Kerry Fox), rescued by Steven from a suicide attempt and then seduced with lethal consequences.
   When the police begin nosing around, he disarms a wily inspector (Timothy Spall) with his manufactured charm and cunning calculations. Why would Steven kill someone he has saved from jumping in front of a train?
   Anne, a structural engineer with glamour and brains, is initially just another conquest but she theoretically begins to melt Steven's frozen heart--although there's little change in Law's expression to convey such a transformation. In this role, Elina Lowensohn, so deadpan herself in the films of Hal Hartley, seems positively animated next to her costar.
   Will Steven feast again or can Anne tame the dispassionate beast within him?
   The more compelling pas de deux is actually the one he has with the detective. Lowensohn is not a bad actress but Spall, a veteran of several Mike Leigh pictures, really inspires some nuances in Law's performance as they embark on a familiar cat-and-mouse routine.
   Director Po Chih Leong and cinematographer Oliver Curtis certainly know how to provide visual splendor for this film without much of a pulse.
   Call it the cinema of sangfroid. Starring Jude Law, Elina Lowensohn, Timothy Spall, Kerry Fox, Jack Davenport and Colin Salmon. Directed by Po Chih Leong. Written by Paul Hoffman. Produced by David Lascelles and Carolyn Choa. A Miramax release. Drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 101 min
Tags: Jude Law, Kerry Fox, Timothy Spall, police, murder, mystery, transformation, Elina Lowensohn, Jack Davenport, Colin Salmon, Po Chih Leong, Paul Hoffman
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