The This Worldn The Fireworks Review

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Brooding movie icon looks and Brando-esque delivery would have made Billy Zane a permanent crime thriller fixture some 40 years ago; today, they leave him perennially Hollywood B-list. But here, producing as well as starring, at least he's playing to his strengths.

Dashing, charming and sensitive Marty Lakewood (Zane) is living a contented existence with his glamour-free and extremely portly wife, when a panicked letter from sister Carol (Gershon) sends him back home.

Carol's nine-to-five is the nightly grind of the female escort, and a client has done a post-coital coil-shuffle to the next world. Marty's extraordinary concern becomes clearer when brother and sister start playing mummies and daddies and barmy mother Rue McClanahan is living out a delusion of all-American normality. All, apparently, the legacy of watching an adulterous dad blowing away his lover and rival years before and ending up in Old Sparky himself.

Very odd. But unfortunately not odd and interesting at the same time. Film noir is effectively aped with professional set dressing and costumes, but story and characterisation seem to have lacked similar care.

Confusing, contradictory acting is mistaken for personality depth - Zane, for instance, lurches wildly through pseudo-religious rants, crunching brutality and gentle intimacy- and there's very little reason when Sheryl Lee's uptight policewoman sheds cold beauty for lust-crazed abandon at the mere flick of a Zane eyebrow. Previous adaptations of the late Jim Thompson's work (The Grifters and After Dark My Sweet), have packed power as well as mood and atmosphere. Don't expect the same here.