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SPIRIT, THE

SYNOPSIS:
A former rookie cop returns mysteriously from the dead as The Spirit (Gabriel Macht) to fight crime from the shadows of Central City. His arch-enemy, the Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson) has a different mission: he's going to wipe out Spirit's beloved city as he pursues his own version of immortality. The Spirit tracks this cold-hearted killer from Central City's rundown warehouses, to the damp catacombs, to the windswept waterfront ... Surrounding him at every turn are Ellen Dolan (Sarah Paulson), the whip-smart girl-next-door; Silken Floss (Scarlett Johansson), a punk secretary and frigid vixen; Plaster Of Paris (Paz Vega), a murderous French nightclub dancer; Lorelei (Jaime King), a phantom siren; and Morgenstern (Stana Katic), a sexy young cop. And then there's Sand Saref (Eva Mendes), the jewel thief with dangerous curves, the love of his life turned bad.

Review by Robert Nesti:
Sometimes you shouldn't do it alone. That's the lesson Frank Miller should take after his first solo effort as director - the risible The Spirit. Previously he had worked with Robert Rodriguez in the visually-similar, graphic novel-styled Sin City, which possessed both style and energy. His latest effort, which he wrote and directed, lamely attempts to bring to life the film noir style of Will Eisner's 1940 comic-strip The Spirit, but with a camp sensibility. Didn't Warren Beatty try the same sort of thing with Dick Tracy? That at least had dazzling color and real cinematography; The Spirit is monochromatic and digitised: a style that's arresting at first, but oddly not right for the kind of movie which spoofs Eisner's comic strip rather than recreates it.

Eisner, considered the godfather of the graphic novel, came up with The Spirit in 1940 as the lead comic in a Sunday newspaper pull-out. It lasted for 12 years. His lead character - Denny Colt - was an ex-cop with a very handy supernatural power: he is virtually invincible as he fights the usual run of criminals in Central City. In the film, Gabriel Macht cuts a striking presence in fedora, black mask and red tie. Little wonder he's irresistible to the ladies, who fall all over him like Bogart in The Big Sleep. Macht may not get much mileage out of the film, but jpegs of his torso will likely turn up on websites.

Miller pits The Spirit in a battle with his arch-nemesis the Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson on crystal meth) who also possesses the same invincibility. This makes their first battle a tiring exercise in excess - why are they going at it if they can't hurt each other? Anyway the Spirit doesn't want the Octopus dead - he's the only one that knows the secret behind their power. Into the mix is an elixir that will bring eternal life, some garment in a glowing box, the Spirit's childhood sweetheart turned international jewel thief Sand Saref (Eva Mendes), and more Maxim babes than a party at the Playboy mansion.

Sand Saref wants the glowing box; the Octopus wants the elixir in order to become a God; the Spirit wants any woman that happens by; and Ellen (Sarah Paulson), his doctor/ girlfriend, wants him to clean up his act. Somehow these plot elements converge in tedious climatic battle that caps this exercise in cutesy neo-Noir dialogue, campy comedy, bland acting (Macht), overripe acting (Jackson) and just plain terrible acting (Scarlett Johansson as Silken Floss, who appears here to have been a graduate of the Shannen Doherty School of Acting).

Miller can't appear to get a handle on what's funny, dangerous, suspenseful or even sensible - Jackson and Johansson in Nazi garb? The result is striking to the eye, but lacks even the basic elements of suspense or logic. Or fun ... by far the most crucial element in a spoof as self-consciously made as this one.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 0

SPIRIT, THE (M)
(US, 2008)

CAST: Gabriel Macht, Samuel L. Jackson, Eva Mendes, Scarlett Johansson, Sarah Paulson, Jaime King, Paz Vega,

PRODUCER: Deborah Del Prete, Gigi Pritzker, Michael E. Uslan

DIRECTOR: Frank Miller

SCRIPT: Frank Miller (comic books Will Eisner)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Bill Pope

EDITOR: Gregory Nussbaum

MUSIC: David Newman

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Rosario Provenza

RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hoyts

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 29, 2009







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