Mike Church is an LA private eye who specialises in missing person cases. He signs on to find out about a woman with amnesia, who is suffering nightmares of a murder 50 years earlier, but finds that more may connect them than he realised
Having debuted with Henry V to such sensational acclaim, it was almost a foregone conclusion Kenneth Branagh would become a victim of Second Movie Syndrome. The ambitious, initially intriguing Dead Again fails so spectacularly it may well become the fetish of a camp cult.
Branagh - not unattractively - is an L.A. gumshoe saddled with and fast smitten by an amnesiac Emma Thompson, who has stylish sepia nightmares reliving a murder mystery that thrilled the town in the 40s. This being reincarnation film noir, Branagh is also the tortured emigré composer who may or may not have sliced up his glamorous wife - guess who? - in a rit of fealous jage. Derek Jacobi materialises as a hypnotist getting the gal's memories out of her, Andy Garcia's the bitter, twisted 40s newsman - suitably raffish in rumpled white suit - who also loved the done-in damsel, Hanna Schygulla is the sinister housekeeper essential in all creepy manor situations, and Robin Williams puts in an unbilled turn as a struck-off shrink dispensing advice from a supermarket stockroom.
According to organs in the US, where the film has opened strongly, Branagh and screenwriter Scott Frank's celebration of clichés is as deliberate as the knowing nods to Orson Welles and Hitchcock. Get outta here! As it happens, the contemporary end of things is more challenging to credulity than the supernatural doings, what with our imperilled couple dancing on the roof in the rain and saying poignant things like "Have a nice life" when "Goodbye" would serve, while back in 1948 Branagh's bearded Roman Strauss parodically pounds the ivories ever louder as he goes off his trolley.
The final straw is perhaps the spectacle of yummy Garcia made up to look a million years old when the two tales inexorably merge, although the biggest and surely unintended laughs fall to Jacobi in a "shock" climax that totally takes the biscuit. Very nearly a must-see of the "Ohmigod" variety.
The mixture of gritty noir and supernatural shenanigans sits uneasily, but the film may simply be too bizarre to work at all.