Susan Porro

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Rick Review


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Demonstrating that his unique creativity as a writer extends beyond darkly humorous kids' books, in "Rick," Daniel Handler of "Lemony Snicket" fame delves into something more dastardly and grown-up -- an extremely dark comedy adapted from Giuseppe Verdi's tragic opera "Rigoletto" and set in an almost surreal, cut-throat corporate world.

Bill Pullman, who always makes interesting choices when he makes independent films, stars as Rick O'Lette, an aging, career-stalled middle manager who "used to be a nice guy." Now a callous, seething sycophant -- whose own brashness is subservient to a cocky, serpentine young-gun executive (succulently sleazy Aaron Stanford) -- Rick is lured into a murder plot, designed to clear his path to a corner office. A mysteriously au fait old college classmate (charming, matter-of-factly malevolent Dylan Baker) approaches him in some tecnho-Orwellian bar and hints that he makes a seemingly respectable living (with business cards and everything) in the snuff trade and takes advantage of Rick's animosity and ambition.

Director Curtiss Clayton (an acclaimed editor making his helming debut) puts the weight of this strange world on Rick's shoulders, with the mahogany walls of his baroque office closing in on him, and long-dead bigwigs glaring down from musty oil paintings which now hang over desk cubicles and flat-screen computers. And yet Clayton has an ironically light touch with Handler's very black wit, giving the film an alluring pitch of unsettling laughs throughout the ill-fated events that soon unfold.

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