×

Malice

The immaculately crafted "Malice" is a virtual scrapbook of elements borrowed from other suspense pix, but no less enjoyable for being so familiar. Pic should tickle audiences who want to be entertained without being challenged, and will probably drum up healthy business for Columbia and Castle Rock.

With:
Jed - Alec Baldwin Tracy - Nicole Kidman Andy - Bill Pullman Dana - Bebe Neuwirth Dr. Kessler - George C. Scott Ms. Kennsinger - Anne Bancroft Dennis Riler - Peter Gallagher Lester Adams - Josef Sommer

The immaculately crafted “Malice” is a virtual scrapbook of elements borrowed from other suspense pix, but no less enjoyable for being so familiar. Pic should tickle audiences who want to be entertained without being challenged, and will probably drum up healthy business for Columbia and Castle Rock.

The film starts slowly, with college dean Bill Pullman concerned over the mysterious rapist who’s attacked several students in the sleepy New England college town, and worrying about the mysterious abdominal pains plaguing his wife (Nicole Kidman).

Enter polished, self-assured surgeon Alec Baldwin, who is new to the area and moves into the third floor of the house Pullman and Kidman are restoring. (The script never addresses why a presumably highly paid doctor would feel the need to share a house with virtual strangers, but if the filmmakers didn’t worry about this, neither should you.)

After about 40 minutes, the pic shifts into high gear when Baldwin performs emergency surgery on Kidman, which kicks off a series of revelations, plot reversals and character twists.

Script by Aaron Sorkin and Scott Frank, from a story by Sorkin and Jonas McCord, touches on such big topics as fear of doctors, but doesn’t explore them, choosing instead to simply give the audience a piece of escapism.

To its credit, pic takes the high road in not going for cheap effects — though a thriller, there’s not one big scream in the whole movie — which may frustrate some horror fans, but the plotting, and, especially, the execution maintain interest.

“Malice” makes nods to specific films, such as “Marnie” and “Pacific Heights, ” and collects a lot of elements familiar from recent suspense pix: the sinister janitor, the bloody rubber gloves operating room scenes, grappling bodies crashing through the banister, as well as familiar story twists that won’t be repeated here.

Some of the plotting gets plodding — bits involving a mysterious neighbor and a hypodermic needle are particularly dubious — but on the whole, the script does what it set out to do, and if the filmmakers didn’t worry about these things, neither should you.

“Malice” boasts a polished crew — scorer Jerry Goldsmith, lenser Gordon Willis, editor David Bretherton, production designer Philip Harrison and soundman Robert Eber all do first-class work.

Kudos to director Harold Becker and his producer partners Rachel Pfeffer and Charles Mulvehill for assembling a classy, tight package and making it work so well.

The actors play amusing variations on past roles — Baldwin as the self-assured charmer with dark and fragile undercurrents (as in “Miami Blues”); Kidman as the threatened wife with reservoirs of strength (as in “Dead Calm”); Peter Gallagher as an unctuous lawyer (“sex, lies, and videotape”); and Bill Pullman as a likable, confused schlub (just about everything he’s ever been in).

All the thesps, including George C. Scott and Anne Bancroft in brief cameos, are fine, with Baldwin and Kidman the standouts.

After listless performances in such pics as “Days of Thunder” and “Far and Away,” Aussie Kidman, who here uses a flawless American accent, proves her strengths as an actress, and Baldwin mixes menace, sex and humor in another terrific performance.

Scripter William Goldman is listed as “consultant,” a credit that’s unexplained. But if Mr. Goldman didn’t worry about it, neither should you.

Malice

Production: A Columbia release of a Castle Rock Entertainment in association with New Line Cinema production. (International distribution: New Line Intl. Releasing.) Produced by Rachel Pfeffer, Charles Mulvehill, Harold Becker. Exec producers, Michael Hirsh, Patrick Loubert. Co-exec producer, Peter Brown. Directed by Becker. Screenplay, Aaron Sorkin, Scott Frank. Story by Sorkin, Jonas McCord.

Crew: Camera (Technicolor), Gordon Willis; editor, David Bretherton; music, Jerry Goldsmith; production design, Philip Harrison; art direction, Dianne Wager; set design, Sydney Litwack, Alan Manzer, Hugo Santiago, Harold Fuhrman; set decoration, Garrett Lewis, Tracey Doyle (Boston); sound, Robert Eber; associate producer-assistant director, Thomas Mack; casting, Nancy Klopper. Reviewed at Sony Studios screening room, Culver City, Sept. 14, 1993. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 107 min.

With: Jed - Alec Baldwin Tracy - Nicole Kidman Andy - Bill Pullman Dana - Bebe Neuwirth Dr. Kessler - George C. Scott Ms. Kennsinger - Anne Bancroft Dennis Riler - Peter Gallagher Lester Adams - Josef Sommer

More Film

  • J.R. “Bob” Dobbs and the Church

    SXSW Film Review: 'J.R. “Bob” Dobbs and the Church of the SubGenius'

    Like 8mm films of 1960s “happenings” or videos of 1970s performance art, “J.R. ‘Bob’ Dobbs and the Church of the SubGenius” chronicles a cultural footnote that perhaps should be filed under the heading You Had to Be There. The satirical-absurdist “religion” founded by some Texans actually caught fire among hipsters in the 1980s, influencing some [...]

  • 'Roll Red Roll' Review: Piercing Documentary

    Film Review: 'Roll Red Roll'

    “Roll Red Roll” is a piercingly relevant and disturbing documentary about an infamous high school rape case that took place in Steubenville, Ohio (pop. 18,600), on Aug. 11, 2012. Steubenville, the sort of Friday-night-lights small town that boasts signs that read “Kick off for Jesus,” is a place that’s good at keeping secrets. When the [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    Writers Guild, Hollywood Agents Negotiate With Deadline Looming

    The Writers Guild of America and Hollywood agents have held a sixth negotiating session with a deadline for a new deal 16 days away — and it’s uncertain whether progress is being made. The Association of Talent Agents made counter-proposals at Thursday’s session that contain provisions for more accountability and transparency by agencies for clients [...]

  • Fox Layoffs

    Fox Layoffs Leave Staffers Stunned and Saddened

    Fox employees knew this day was coming. For over a year, the men and women who work at the Century City lot have talked of little else but severance packages and job searches. They knew that when Disney wrapped up its $71.3 billion acquisition of much of 21st Century Fox’s film and television assets, thousands [...]

  • Alan Horn Disney

    Disney Clarifies Film Leadership After Harrowing Day of Fox Layoffs

    Following the dismissal of top executives in distribution, marketing and strategy on Thursday, new 20th Century Fox owner Disney has clarified its new top leadership. Five distinct Fox labels and a portion of their leadership have been welcomed into the Disney fold, the company said. This includes Twentieth Century Fox, Fox Family, Fox Searchlight Pictures, [...]

  • Janelle Monae

    Film News Roundup: Janelle Monae to Star in Film From Gerard Bush, Christopher Renz

    In today’s film news roundup, Janelle Monae will star in a Lionsgate movie, Bill Nighy joins “Emma,” and documentaries on surfer Bethany Hamilton and Asbury Park are dated. CASTINGS Janelle Monae will star in an untitled Lionsgate movie directed by the duo Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz. The film will be produced by QC Entertainment’s Ray [...]

  • Blair Rich Marketing Summit

    Studio Marketing Chiefs Discuss the Theatrical vs. Netflix Oscars Debate

    On a day where a large part of the Fox marketing department was wiped out in the aftermath of the Disney merger, a group of marketing chiefs from other studios and streamers sat down at the Variety Entertainment Marketing Summit presented by Deloitte “to discuss the issues shaping the feature marketing landscape today, including the theatrical [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content