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JUDAS' KISS

SYNOPSIS:
In New Orleans, four small-time crooks - the slinky Coco Chavez (Carla Gugino), her boyfriend Junior Armstrong (Simon Baker-Denny), yoga nut Lizard Browning (Gil Bellows) and musclehead Ruben Rubenbauer (Til Schweiger) - set out to kidnap and hold for ransom wealthy computer entrepreneur Ben Dyson (Greg Wise). The raid on Dyson's apartment goes well until an elderly woman unexpectedly springs the quartet in the act, and a nervous Coco is forced to shoot her dead. When the victim is identified as the wife of a prominent senator, the kidnappers find they now have not only the cops - Agent Sadie Hawkins (Emma Thompson) and Detective David Friedman (Alan Rickman) - to contend with, but a very pissed-off Senator Hombeck (Hal Holbrook) as well. Suffice to say, before 24 hours have elapsed, many of the key players will be dead.

"One of the most attractive elements of Judas' Kiss is the cinematography, its sparsely lit interiors working up the noirish tone of the film. This, and the many good ideas swirling around in it, save the film from slipping unnoticed into the black hole of dud films. It's an awkward jigsaw of genres: smartly bizarre arthouse, plus the blend of edgy thriller and offbeat cop show with a dash of music video. The script would certainly appeal to anyone looking for an unconventional movie, unless they happened to notice that the structure of the story is so confoundingly twisted as to be obscure. Performances aren't the problem, although casting Rickman and Thompson against type would have worked better had they been written as expat English detectives working in the US. Not that their accents are annoying, but their lines aren't ironic enough, funny enough to establish the right the tone. As it often seems that the film is pursuing a claim on style, there is a sense of looking to be cool for the sake of it. But in the final 15 minutes the film reverts to genre and delivers a traditional resolution, complete with moral closure. It is no surprise, given the ambitions of this film, to hear that Gutierrez may be working with Pedro Almodovar - the latter will provide valuable guidance in marshalling those cinematic wild ponies of his into a more cohesive herd."
Andrew L. Urban

"Judas' Kiss is a curious film, with the sum of its parts more alluring than the ingredients alone. Sebastian Gutierrez' debut film is bold, fast and smoulders with red hot sexual tension throughout. Its fabulous look is enhanced by slick cinematography and golden production design that sharpens our expectations. In fact, there are so many good things about the film, more's the pity that its strengths get buried in overkill and lack of character development. Instead of being drawn to the characters and their bizarre world of greed, lust and betrayal, we are mere observers. Gutierrez appears so anxious to impress he has thrown everything you can possibly imagine into the mix. At times I was unsure what genre he is aiming for. Sure, it's a kidnap cop thriller with cool crims, irrational cops, coloured by shady politicians and double dealing, but the jazzy quizzical score cuts through the tension and implies a quirky comedic mood which never quite gels. Perhaps Gutierrez could have taken more advantage of his wonderful cast by allowing Carla Gugino's central character more of a leading role, and allowing us to connect more effectively, thus showcasing those delicious cameos of erratic cops-on-the job Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson. (Thompson on duty rollerblading is an image worth preserving, while Rickman's hang-dog desperation is a joy.) Judas' Kiss may be frustrating, but it is nonetheless a promise of exciting films to come from an adventurous film maker."
Louise Keller

"Like many a low-budget feature from a first-time director whose knowledge of a genre stems mainly from reading too many books about it, Judas' Kiss is an ambitious collection of ideas (both original and derivative) lacking satisfactory shape or form. Though he applies the same logic that once prompted a theatre director to mount an off-Broadway show dominated by a dozen reworked numbers from the great musicals of the past, director Sebastian Gutierrez gives the clichés so much spin that the gambit almost pays off. He knows what makes heroes and villains tick, so the shadings he has attached to his wayward rogues are just rich enough to keep them from falling into the mire of the standard stereotype. Carla Gugino's Coco is a vulnerable yet flinty femme fatale who easily holds her own amidst her accomplices' macho posturing, while as her priapic boyfriend Junior, Aussie ex-pat Baker finally gets a chance to shine with a performance that augers well for his future prospects beyond the indie fringe. And if Gutierrez was looking to inject his drama with a little comic relief, getting the likes of Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman to play the cops was certainly a coup. Watching these two very English Shakespearian actors trying to act laconic as they struggle with a drawling Southern accent yields the kind of simple pleasures one wishes the film had more of. Where Gutierrez mostly comes undone is with the mechanics of the mis-en-scene itself. Time and again he sacrifices pace to indulge in pretentious jump-cut flashbacks or, at one stage, a split-screen montage more reminiscent of a 60s psychedelic B-movie than a contemporary crime caper. Though it pales into insignificance alongside something like Carl Franklin's riveting One False Move, Judas' Kiss still manages to mend enough of its rough-hewn edges to give an undiscerning audience ample value for its money."
Leo Cameron

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 2

TRAILER

JUDAS' KISS (MA)
(US)

CAST: Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Gil Bellows, Simon Baker, Greg Wise, Til Schweiger, Carla Gugino

DIRECTOR: Sebastian Gutierrez

PRODUCER: Beau Flynn, Stefan Simchowitz

SCRIPT: Deanna Fuller, Sebastian Gutierrez

CINEMATOGRAPHER: James Chressanthis

EDITOR: Howard E. Smith

MUSIC: Christopher Young

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jerry Fleming

RUNNING TIME: 98 min

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 8, 2000 (Sydney & Melbourne)

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Home Ent

VIDEO RELEASE: March 14, 2001







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