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Malice stumbles over clever, but uneven plot

Starring Alec Baldwin, Nicole Kidman,
and Bill Pullman.
Directed by Harold Becker.

By Patrick Mahoney
Staff Reporter

Malice has a clever plot. Its cast is strong too. But the new movie, starring Alec Baldwin, Nicole Kidman, and Bill Pullman leaves much to be desired. The film opens with the rape of a Westerly College woman, and we meet the surgeon -- Jed Hill, played by Baldwin -- who saves her life. Hill is new in town, and gets himself invited to rent the third floor of the house of a Westerly associate dean (Pullman). He moves in along with his over-sized ego, much to the displeasure of the dean's wife (Kidman).

So far so good? The opening ten or fifteen minutes of Malice leads the audience to believe that this film is a thriller about a serial killer stalking a campus in Massachusetts. The stage is excellently set for this in the opening scene, but this plot soon takes a secondary role. We then think that it is going to be about a doctor with a manic superiority complex. But the actual focus lies elsewhere (to announce it would be to spoil the film), and isn't enough to hold the movie together.

Kidman plays her part well, and the audience is able to believe her. From the outset, we know where she stands and how she feels. As the story progresses we follow her changing emotions and feeling. Baldwin does a good job: He convinces the audience that he is insane and that he really does think that he is God. Pullman is not so believable. His characterization is dull and boring throughout most of the film. When he goes though a crisis in the middle of the movie, he confuses us. It is hard to tell what he is feeling.

Malice also suffers from several scenes of unnecessary violence. It doesn't help the plot any, and sometime it even leaves us confused about an action which seems almost out of character. The same can be said about the steamy love scenes in this movie. With maybe one exception, they can get cut, and the story wouldn't suffer in the least. But then maybe the problem is that there really isn't any story: It's the old game of when you're thin on plot, cart out the sex and violence.

If this movie was supposed to be a thriller, I am afraid it fails miserably. There are suspenseful scenes, but none of them really add to the movie, and what's worse most of them come in the beginning or middle of the movie, not the end where one would expect to find them. As a mystery movie where the audience is supposed to pick up clues and solve the riddle, I'm afraid it also fails. I don't think that anyone can be expected to even come close to figuring out all the twists. Overall the movie ranks below average. Kidman and Baldwin's good acting can't save it.