Close to Eden Review

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Originally stuck with the equally meaningless title A Stranger Among Us, this is an urban Witness with Griffith as a hardboiled NYC copette who goes undercover among the Hassidic Jews to catch a jewel- thief-cum-killer.

Like Griffith's character, the film falls in love with the traditionalist Hassids, choking on scene after scene of ethnic dancing and stuck-on beards, every interior bathed in a golden Hovis advert glow. The plot dribbles on, with Griffith spending a lot less time busting the case than she does mooning over hunky scholar Thai and learning how much happier she would be if she were a submissive doormat. Stuck with a mystery any other movie detective would solve in the first five minutes, Griffith has to sit through some intense special pleading on behalf of the Hassids, who keep insisting it is impossible for any of them to be guilty of robbery and throat-cutting.

There is an interesting theme in the paralleling of the enclosed worlds of the police department and the orthodox Jewish communities, but not much is made of it. The cast do what they can, with Griffith starting out quite well as a cuddly but fearsome cop, even if she does wimp out in the latter stretches, and Thai and sister Mia Sara manage to be convincingly saintly without seeming entirely feeble-minded.

In the end, however, with its Fiddler On The Roof score and some sneakily hypocritical espousing of deeply conservative religious values, this is little more than a Ill-minute love letter to Sidney Lumet's rabbi.