Leo Movie Review

With Shakespeare in Love now six years behind us, Joseph Fiennes may never star in a tolerable movie again.

The blandly-titled Leo is the story of the titular boy (Davis Sweat), the illegitimate son of a sudden widow (Elisabeth Shue), who corresponds with a felon (Fiennes) via mail. Felon gets out, and these two men slowly converge upon one another, though something odd about the movie compels us to wonder if there isn't a deeper connection. Some big names parade through the film, almost at random, including a mopey Sam Shepard and a ridiculously over-the-top Dennis Hopper, who strikes the film's most curious note when he cracks an egg and smears it on Deborah Unger's thighs.

Based vaguely on the characters in James Joyces' Ulysses, Leo is as wildly pretentious as anything based on Ulysses ought to be. Director Mehdi Norowzian contrives a silly way to create resonance for his film and fails pretty miserably at it. Along the way we're treated to some awkward acting -- Fiennes as a Sling Blade-ish southern ex-con is laughably bad, only Shue makes any sort of impression that doesn't involve supressed laughter -- and a story that develops at a halting pace. Leo just isn't compelling for more than a few minutes at a time, and the presumably out-there ending will have even art house regulars rolling their eyes.


Leo Rating

" Grim "

Rating: R, 2002


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