"Playing God" Review
© 1997 Fontaine L.
- spoilers -

Despite what the real critics at NY Times, LA Times, USA Weekend, and Entertainment Weekly. . .etc. all say, I have to boldly declare that I like this movie. Yesiree. Hell, even my friends said it was a crazy, nonsensical movie, but I liked it. If you'll read my previous reviews, you'll see that I seldom give a grade lower than a B to a movie. Maybe they're making better movies nowadays. Or maybe I'm just too easily satisfied. :D But I guess the real problem is I have not experience enough in the field to see flaws when they're there. So, anyways, on to the review. :)

"Playing God" is what you might call a "Pulp Fiction" rip off. It's got enough blood and violence and alternative music in it to make Quinten Tarantino nod and smile. It's also very funny. And unpredictable. One of its merits is that because it's sort of an indie film--it doesn't have any real big stars (although David Duchovny and Timothy Hutton are both "famous," they have yet to buff their box office muscle), and it's not your regular blockbuster action film either. That, perhaps, gives the film much more space to grow. It's got some funky little scenes that make you go, "Hmmm, this movie is special." Other times, you feel dizzy and nauseated. There are times when the directing and editing is just sloppy. Was the cinematographer high?? Sure, they're trying to give the film a grungy feel, but sometimes they go overboard. One of the worst sequences in the movie is the drab flashback scene. The dialogue from the movie, while sometimes obviously dull and contrived, contains some true gems. Witness the scenes where Duchovny's character, Eugene Sands, says, "I don't think any of us are [Snow White]." Listen to Duchovny's voiceovers. It is only in these moments that we feel we're actually watching a Movie With A Message, not a MTV music video or a Saturday Night Live skit. Other times we wonder--"What's the point?"

David Duchovny does a solid, if not superb job here. When the movie first begins, he seems to be lifeless while he struggles to "fit" into the movie. Sometimes, he's as numb as Keanu Reeves can be. Particularly memorable is the scene where Raymond Blossom's (played by Hutton) Japanese house is attacked by "Dimitri." While Duchovny is supposed to look surprised and bewildered, he comes off as barely interested. Before you pass Duchovny off as a bad actor, hear my opinion as an avid Duchovny viewer on his weekly TV show. He is definitely underrated. While there are times in this movie when he just doesn't come through, other times when you look into his eyes you can actually see the pain staring back at you. Times when those eyes communicate multitudes of anguish, sadness, and despair. Anyone who's seen the X-Files season finale this year can tell ya. There are times in "Playing God" like these too. Not to mention he has a knack for comedy. Sometimes we're not seeing Eugene Sands--we're seeing the wry and witty Duchovny. At the worst boyish and charming while he blunders, Duchovny fares well in the film. Timothy Hutton's performance is consistently amazing in the film--though I cannot tell you much for I have not seen many Hutton films. But as a stylish, insane criminal, he's great. The film's superb supporting cast adds flavor to the film--these oddball characters provide much of the laughs. The crazy Australian dude. The stereotypically stupid government G-man Gage (played by, I believe, an X-Files alumni as well). The gay people in the trailor. The homely folk in the crappy bar. Without these performances, the movie would sink. There is only one dull character--Claire, played by Angelina Jolie. She looks nice when she's tortured and bloody, but at best she wants charisma.

As I always like to say, this is a movie you have to view with a light heart and tolerant eye. Think of it as a "first" effort by the cast and crew who is obviously proud of their hard work. You can feel the effort. That is why I simply cannot bring myself to over-criticize the work. Besides, like I said, I liked it. As a drama and action film it doesn't perform too well-- but as a twisted humour piece it delivers. Just ask the audience I watched the movie with. We were ROTFL. "Playing God" is a well thought out film about people on the edge who happen to crash-collide with each other. The unexpected result makes the movie interesting. Though inconsistent in its quality and too feel-goodish in the end, we're seeing a true classic half-way in the making.

RATING: B- (First viewing, 10/17/97)