In the Cut Movie Review

Congratulations to In the Cut, currently the worst film of 2003. Mandy Moore and the producers responsible for the equally atrocious How to Deal, can breathe a sigh of relief, for they used to stand atop the trash heap but no longer bear the burden. People, I sit through these films so you don't have to. Spare yourself and avoid Cut.

What, now you want to know why it's so bad? Where to begin? A heaping slop of half-thoughts, Cut exists so squeaky-clean Meg Ryan, trapped in a career spiral, can play against type with meager results. It begins with women turning up dead in a grimy lower Manhattan neighborhood. Assorted clues point Detective James Malloy (Mark Ruffalo) to the door of disheveled English professor Frannie Avery (Ryan), who happened to be in a local bar the night a fellow patron turned up dead.

Slowly, the movie becomes less interested in solving the grisly crimes and more involved in figuring out Frannie, who flirts with an African-American student, panders to her bloated and dysfunctional half-sister (Jennifer Jason Leigh), and initiates a rough-and-tumble but soulless affair with Malloy. Working the case takes a back seat in the detective's mind to scoring some tail from this literate neighborhood tramp.

Clumsily directed by Jane Campion, the schizophrenic Cut comes and goes as if in a dream state, then changes gears on a dime. Elements of the murder mystery clash with the central passion play, and both are repeatedly disrupted by bizarre supporting characters - from Kevin Bacon's deranged ex-boyfriend to Malloy's guitar-strumming partner - who exist solely to convince us that they may or may not be the killer.

Cut believes it deserves credit for dabbling in tawdry sex, serial killers, and insincere dramatic tensions. Too bad Campion mistakes "crass" for "racy" when choosing her material. Ryan wants to turn heads by sullying her sweetheart image, but Frannie's such a shallow combination of emotional idiosyncrasies there's no reason to invest in her existence. Her relationship with Malloy aims for dangerous, but instead feels dumb and dull.

Working from Susanna Moore's novel, Campion falls back on a pedestrian murder mystery whenever Ryan and Ruffalo cool off. Unfortunately, the case is so anorexic it threatens to tumble over like a house of cards if only Ryan's character could pull herself from between the sheets long enough to reveal one very important piece of information to Ruffalo's clueless detective.

What we're left with is a pasted-together beast that can't maintain flow for five whole minutes. A distracted piece of filmmaking, this disjointed bomb rolls along like a square tire. The inept screenplay swirls and tumbles like a tissue in a hurricane, rapidly peaking, instantly plummeting, but always heading in no direction whatsoever. It's so arrogant, pompous, and all over the place that everyone involved should be put on some form of Hollywood probation.

Why bother with the motel?


In the Cut Rating

" Unbearable "

Rating: R, 2003


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