Combustible Celluloid
With: Mira Sorvino, Richard Dreyfuss, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Cress Williams, Derek Russo, Andrea Frankle, Haviland Stillwell, Joanna Walchuk, Ray Iannicelli
Written by: Adam Lipsius
Directed by: Adam Lipsius
MPAA Rating: R for violence, language and some sexual content
Running Time: 98
Date: 08/13/2021

Crime Story (2021)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Of Vice and Ben

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A promising team-up of two former Oscar-winners, Adam Lipsius's generically-titled crime drama is actually an overwrought, often-confusing assembly of twitchy camerawork and a relentless music score.

Ben Myers (Richard Dreyfuss) is a former criminal gone straight. He lives with his wife, Nan (Megan McFarland), who suffers from dementia. His estranged daughter, Nick (Mira Sorvino), is a homicide detective that also works for a crooked Congressman, who has an old relationship with Ben. Nick comes to Ben to ask him to help send his nephews to a special school, and Ben reveals to Nick that he's dying of cancer.

Meanwhile, Ben's home is robbed, and his huge stash of money is stolen. He jumps back into his old criminal ways to find the thieves, using surveillance footage and his wits, as well as his right-hand man Tommy (Pruitt Taylor Vince). Everything comes to a head at a rally held by the Congressman, where secrets are revealed and violence changes thins forever.

The first ten minutes of Crime Story have an irritating quality, opening on a flash-forward to Ben in an ambulance, with woozy, out-of-focus camerawork, accompanied by Ben's disorienting narration. The odd narration continues "12 hours earlier" as Ben prepares for his day. The scene somehow recalls the caffeinated rhythm of Uncut Gems, but not as energizing; it's more like the end of a caffeine jag, accompanied by a sickly feeling, and frayed nerves.

Crime Story continues like this as Dreyfuss and Sorvino act mightily, throwing great amounts of intensity into their scenes. Sometimes they're magnificent, but most times their performances feel unshaped, or too strained. The story itself and its twists feel rather muted compared to the intensity of the scene-by-scene exchanges. There's no real suspense.

Additionally, the camerawork frequently obscures certain details, and it's often difficult to even tell what's going on, or what happened during a split-second moment. At least the wonderful character actor Pruitt Taylor Vince is on hand, giving a wonderfully quiet, touching performance among the chaos.

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