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PALMETTO

SYNOPSIS:
Newspaper reporter Harry Palmer (Woody Harrelson) has just been released from prison after serving a two-year sentence for a crime he didn't commit; he was framed after trying to publish an article about council corruption in his home town, Palmetto, Florida. Following his release, he meets up with his sculptress girlfriend Nina (Gina Gershon) but then quickly gets involved with another woman, Rhea Malroux (Elisabeth Shue), whom he encounters in a seedy bar. Rhea tells Harry that she's married to wealthy, elderly Felix Malroux (Rolf Hoppe), and outlines her plan to extort money from Felix by pretending that his daughter Odette (Chloe Sevigny) has been kidnapped. They need Harry to help them by picking up the cash and by impersonating the 'kidnapper' over the phone. Wary, but drawn to the mysterious Rhea, Harry agrees to be part of the scam. Rhea assures him that Felix won't contact the police. But when Harry discovers that the cops have quickly found out all about the 'kidnapping' – and want to hire him as their press agent on the case – he realises he's in way over his head...

"Despite its prestigious director and mild air of self-importance, this is basically just another trashy thriller, in the mode satirised so well by Wild Things: tricky plot convolutions and shock reversals, 'atmospheric' Florida swamp vistas shot from an ominously buzzing helicopter, under-lit soft-porn interludes of kiss-me-or-kill-me heavy breathing. Stuck in a worn-out 'neo-noir' idiom without any of the speed or no-frills precision of actual '40s crime films, Palmetto wastes a reasonably skilled cast on stultifying recreations of old-movie stereotypes. Elizabeth Shue is ridiculous as the pouty, loopy femme fatale: adorned with all the cliches ('I'm just a girl with a little ambition...we're not so different, you and me') plus numerous nervous tics, she sashays round in a variety of tousled wigs, dark waifish eyes wide with derangement. Woody Harrelson's familiar uncouth mannerisms can't cover up the fact that his character makes no sense – he's supposed to be a sharp, wrongfully accused journalist, but it's never convincingly explained why he acts throughout like a dumb thug-for-hire (or why his long-suffering girlfriend is so accepting of this). The 'surprise' twists get more and more unbelievable and corny as the film oozes toward a Batman-style climax with acid baths and gloating villains, but by then you may be too enervated to care."
Jake Wilson

"A new film by master film maker Volker Schlöndorff, who directed the Oscar-winning classic The Tin Drum, would normally cause film critics everywhere to breathe a sigh of impending anticipation. Not so, with this derivative, dull, directionless disaster. Film noir has become a fashionable addition to film culture, since the success of L.A Confidential, but such films need interesting characters to pin an equally interesting script on, and this film, based on a thirties potboiler, doesn't come close. There are frequent references to the predicability of central character Harry Barber, played with insipid indifference by Woody Harrelson. It's not only the character that's predictable. The film meanders along with attempted atmospherics, with the rain and dinginess enhancing the film's cliched approach to narrative and stylistic convention. The plot is incoherent and full of holes, and for a thriller, Schlöndorff has adopted a slow and steady approach. Scenes fall into each other with an aimless dullness; there's little suspense or sense of mystery. For Schlöndorff fans, Palmetto is a huge disappointment; for lovers of the genre, it's a disaster through and through."
Paul Fischer

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PALMETTO (M 15+)
(US)

CAST: Woody Harrelson, Elisabeth Shue, Gina Gershon, Rolf Hoppe, Michael Rapaport, Chloe Sevigny, Tom Wright

DIRECTOR: Volker Schlondorff

PRODUCER: Matthias Wendlandt

SCRIPT: E. Max Frye (based on the novel Just Another Sucker by James Hadley Chase)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Thomas Kloss

EDITOR: Peter Przygodda

MUSIC: Klaus Dolinger

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Claire Jenora Bowin

RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE DATE: September 3, 1998







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