Married but unfaithful Roxie Hart (Renée Zellweger) dreams of singing and dancing her way out of her suburban life, following in the dance steps of Chicago’s hot vaudeville performer Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones). When she is dumped by her boyfriend, Roxie shoots him. She meets Velma in prison, who is also up for murdering a guy and is attracting big headlines. Under the crooked care of jail warden Matron Morton (Queen Latifah), Roxie meets legendary defence lawyer Billy Flynn (Richard Gere), who knows how to get a gal off a murder rap. At a price. Now it’s Roxie who is the media celebrity, but Velma has a few aces left in the garter of her shapely legs.
Review by Louise Keller:
The ultimate razzle dazzle, Chicago is a stunning show stopper, a seamless integration of toe-tapping tunes, riveting routines in the wicked and wonderful seedy side of the swing city. Delighting at every turn, Chicago tantalises, enthrals and above all, entertains for every single, divine moment. Of course Kander and Ebb’s catchy songs are pretty cool to begin with, and if you’re an ardent fan of the musical, I promise you won’t be disappointed. It’s everything you can hope for and more! A muted trumpet wails, 5-6-7-8 taps the count-in and presto, we are ensconced in the smoky, sleezy, sensual surrounds, where suspenders and fishnets flash and vanity flaunts itself like a narcissistic lion. Director/ choreographer Rob Marshall uses everything that cinema has on offer to bring this musical fantasy about murder, mayhem and celebrity to the screen. Slick editing, superb production values, innovative choreography and sublime performances take us to this whoopee spot where the gin is cold and the piano’s hot. The songs? What can you say about gems like ‘When You’re Good to Mama’, ‘He Had It Coming’, ‘All I Care About Is Love’, and the seductive ‘All That Jazz’. Dingy prison settings are juxtapositioned with fantasy routines, and succinctly spliced together. One routine starts with the drip of a tap, the steady step of a prison guard, the click of idle fingers to set the rhythm. Innovative choreography takes over in this spectacular set piece. And of course, we are reminded of those great one-liners like ‘He ran into my knife… 10 times’, and ‘We had artistic differences: he saw himself alive, I saw him dead’; ‘If Jesus Christ had lived in Chicago and had $5,000, things would have been different’. The cast is perfect with curvaceous Catherine Zeta-Jones as the conniving vixen Velma Kelly, Renee Zellweger as attention-seeking, scheming Roxy Hart and Richard Gere as you’ve never seen him before in the guise of the manipulating lawyer Billy Flynn, who cuts a mean tap dance. The musical numbers are tops, allowing these three enigmatic stars to showcase their considerable singing and dancing talents. (In case anyone isn’t sure, the closing credits confirm that the singing and dancing is performed by the billed artists themselves.) Great support from John C. Reilly as the sucker of a husband (his ‘Mr Cellophane’ a highlight) and Queen Latifah as the Madam of the Jailhouse, whose ‘Mama’ routine is a knockout. Dashing costumes, extravagant sets and outrageous routines are all part of this delectable package. The temptation is too much to resist, so … Come on babe, why don’t we paint the town – this is Chicago – and all that jazz.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Deserving of at least an editing Oscar if not more, Chicago is hot, hot, hot – and comes sizzling to the screen to enrapture a whole new audience of millions more. (More than it already had as a stage musical.) With its underlying, worldly-wise cynicism winking from every line of dialogue and its noirish plot dragging us through the hedonistic, vain, dazzled by razzle Chicago of the 30s, the book is strong enough as drama, while the songs are exhilarating and memorable (Thanks Kander & Ebb.) Always were, and director / choreographer Rob Marshall puts the show on the screen with great brio and enough eroticism to power a cross gender turn-on. Marshall squeezes every ounce of spectacle and cinema out of the musical, and has the good taste or good fortune to have the perfect cast. It is largely because of the performances that we buy his package of cinema and theatre blended into one sensational package, without a dull nano-second. (The only tiny flaw in the entire production is the incomprehensible line of dialogue in Hungarian, spoken by a minor character. And only Hungarians will notice.) Stimulating in its inventive execution, the original material is not merely resurrected, but like a well produced version of a great Shakespeare play, it is given a new life. Indeed, a new life force, considering the energy that pours off the screen in the production numbers. Marshall and his editor Martin Walsh have made the film visually brilliant (nod to production designer John Myhre) and use the book’s dark underbelly to anchor the dramatics. Australian cinematographer Dion Beebe is also on the awards list for wonderfully inspired lighting. In short, Chicago is a stupendous musical and more fun than is legally good for you – except in Chicago.
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DION BEEBE INTERVIEW by Andrew L. Urban
CHICAGO (M15+) Medium Level Violence, Adult Themes
CAST: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renée Zellweger, Richard Gere, John C. Reilly, Queen Latifah, Christine Baranski, Taye Diggs, Dominic West, Lucy Liu
PRODUCER: Marty Richards, Harvey Weinstein
DIRECTOR: Rob Marshall (Choreographer: Rob Marshall)
SCRIPT: Bill Condon (screenplay); John Kander, Fred Ebb (musical); Maurine Dallas Watkins (play)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Dion Beebe
EDITOR: Martin Walsh
MUSIC: Danny Elfman (John Kander)
PRODUCTION DESIGN: John Myhre
RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista International
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 23, 2003