The Rich Man's Wife Movie Review

There are a couple of rules inherent to the thriller that any filmmaker should be aware of. First, you have to keep the pace moving so fast that the audience doesn't have time to think about whodunit. And second, if you kill off most of the cast, whoever's left alive at the end of the movie is the one who did the killing.

The Rich Man's Wife blindly ignores both of these rules, but still manages to float, thanks to a united effort by an exceptional cast and exquisite production values. Amy Holden Jones directs her own screenplay here, a modern-day reworking of Hitchcock's masterful Strangers on a Train.

Hitch's story revolved around a man who took a joke too far -- an offer to kill the other's wife. This time, it's wife Josie (Halle Berry) kills ultra-rich husband Tony (Christopher McDonald) with the aid of friendly sociopath Cole (Peter Greene). Jones also throws in some interesting twists about Josie's forlorn lover Jake (Clive Owen) and his ex-wife Nora (Clea Lewis from TV's Ellen) -- the latter who all but steals the show.

But the main problem is that despite a tight 100 minute running time, Jones's pacing is slower than a Yugo headed uphill, primarily because there's not a lot of story filler off the main path of the film (this isn't necessarily a bad thing, it just doesn't work right here). The other problem is that none of the characters in the film are very good at being criminals; leaving mile-wide trails for the cops. (Then again, this may or may not have been intentional. Whatever the case, they're really slow about it.) This lethargy left me restless during much of the movie, but it works to great effect when Jones finally revs into action phase...

Any time a gun comes out on screen, watch it, because sparks are about to fly. The confrontation between Tony and Cole is a powerhouse of a cat & mouse sequence which almost makes the film worth seeing on its own. Jones also uses the mixed-race marriage of Josie and Tony to explore (on a very limited scale) some of the racial dynamics of their situation and of society in general.

The bottom line is that everyone in the film could have stood a shot of adrenaline, but by the time it's over, the thriller will have captured the minds of most of its audience. After all, patience is a virtue, right?

P.S. My biggest complaint -- while you find out who did it, you never really find out how. If any of my readers figure it out, please drop me a line and let me hear your theory.

Berry to Greene: Zed's dead, baby. Zed's dead.


The Rich Man's Wife Rating

" OK "

Rating: R, 1996


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