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Malice Review

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A couple take in a respectable doctor (Baldwin) as a tenant thinking who could be better. But in true Hollywood style, the doctor turns out to be not so reliable and begins to act very strangely particularly towards the wife (Kidman) after having to perform emergence surgery on her.

★★★★★

Take the director of Sea of Love (Becker), hand him a screenplay from the writers of Dead Again (Scott Frank) and A Few Good Men (Aaron Sorkin), and what do you get? A suspense thriller orbiting around what has to be one of the most outlandish insurance scams ever, not as thrilling as you might hope, but nonetheless enjoyable in a strictly preposterous sort of way.

College dean Bill Pullman and hospital volunteer Nicole Kidman are a pair of pleasant newlyweds residing in a bucolic New England town, lovingly restoring their gorgeous Victorian mansion, and worrying about the mysterious abdominal pains plaguing Kidman. Their humdrum lives are irretrievably, er, gutted when charismatic stud surgeon Alec Baldwin moves into the attic floor of their grand Vic, and proceeds to act like a menacing refugee from Pacific Heights. It's only after a bourbon-soaked Baldwin performs emergency surgery on Kidman, however, that the duplicitous back-stabbing and deceit we've all been waiting to break out among the entangled trio finally does.

Why a presumably affluent doctor would feel the need to rent a room, or why a serial rapist red herring the size of Maine is half-heartedly tossed into the mix, are questions left unanswered, but to his credit Becker takes the moral high road, refraining from a tiresomely tawdry, blood-and-guts finale, and relying instead on the serpentine revelations and character machinations to tell his tale.

After Sommersby and Sleepless In Seattle, Pullman appears to have the market cornered on gullible chump, while the appealingly fiery Kidman slowly beginning to show her acting prowess. It's Baldwin, however, who steals the show, compulsively watchable as the brilliant sawbones with a seething neurotic streak and his very own God complex. It's worth the admission price just to hear him sneer, "I am God!" to a gathering of medicos (including George C. Scott in cameo) and insurance attorneys. Indeed, it's high-camp moments like this that make up for Malice's otherwise all-too-glaring flaws.

Unworthy of comparisons to Hitchcock, but as a thriller it's not a complete failure either.

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