RARA-AVIS: Biggest Flaw in Small Vices

Gerald So (gso@optonline.net)
Mon, 26 Jul 1999 16:32:25 -0400

Hello, all.

     After reading a flood of SMALL VICES comments on various lists and newsgroups, I stand by by initial favorable review. Parker's script was good (not the best, but good), bringing forth more glimpses of the real Spenser than the TV series ever did. Because of the script, Mantegna played a better, grittier Spenser than Urich did.
     Yes, Shiek-Mahmud Bey lacked presence and laughed too easily, and Marcia Gay Harden lacked heat. It was an ambitious attempt to get Spenser right, hindered by the limitations of a commercial cable channel. All things considered, an decent job.
      The movie's biggest flaw was neither suspicious casting, nor suspicious locations, but bad concept. Reading the comments of director Markowitz and actors Mantegna and Harden, I could tell they'd gotten Spenser wrong: "A throwback to Hammett and Chandler," they said, "a movie with '50s feel, yet definitely set in the 90s."
     SMALL VICES had an identity crisis. Right down to the background music. On the overplayed promos the music was fast, upbeat--just right for a 90s, spine-tingling suspense thriller. David Shire's score from the actual movie was an easy-going riff which, according to one viewer, was rooted in 1952.
     On A&E's Behind the Scenes web page, Parker said, "This is not my movie, this is *our* movie," meaning SMALL VICES was a collaboration among several people who--it seems to me--were on different wavelenths. Not the recipe for a tight, consistent, flowing film.
    So, like the movie itself--my opinion is mixed, slanted positively only because I am a Spenser fan.


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