Lionsgate // 2004 // 96 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Mitchell Hattaway (Retired) // June 10th, 2005
Betrayal can be a dangerous game.
It's the spy who came in with a bad script. (I know that's not too clever, but it's all I could come up with.)
Sharon Stone and Rupert Everett get married. Turns out he's a spy for the Russians. Ho-hum.
Where to begin? Okay, so A Different Loyalty is allegedly based on the true story of a wife who had no idea the man she married was a spy for the Soviet Union. I'll go along with it, but I can't imagine the true story was this boring.
The film opens with a completely unnecessary prologue set in London in 1951 and then jumps to 1963 Beirut. That's where we meet Sally (Sharon Stone, Catwoman), a married artist, and Leo (Rupert Everett, The Next Best Thing), a correspondent for a British newspaper who's not really a correspondent for a British newspaper. Despite the fact that there's absolutely no sexual chemistry between them, they quickly start getting it on (even going so far as to have one of those standing up movie quickies in front of a flock of bewildered sheep). Sally then divorces her husband, who doesn't seem to give a damn about his wife's affair with his old friend. Next thing you know, Sally and Leo are married and living with their three kids -- one from her previous marriage and two Leo had tucked away somewhere (I don't know if Leo had them in a previous relationship, adopted them, or bought them from gypsies, as the movie makes no mention of the children's origins). Well, some time goes by, and Leo up and vanishes. More time goes by before some guys from MI-6 show up and tell Sally her husband is spying for the commies. Stone eventually travels to Moscow to see Leo, but only after she has sent his kids off to a boarding school and her daughter to New York. She then spends the rest of the movie traveling between New York, London, and Moscow, trying to take care of her children and trying to get Leo to return home. Exciting, huh?
As I mentioned earlier, there's absolutely no chemistry between Everett and Stone, so there seems to be no reason for her to ditch her husband and start shacking up with a spy. This in turn pretty much negates anything that comes after, because there's no reason to believe Sally would start globetrotting in an attempt to get Leo to return to his family. Director Manek Kanievska (Less Than Zero) takes a very pedestrian approach to the material, so the actual espionage elements in the film don't work, either. If you've seen one guy in a bowler hat standing outside someone's window while pretending to read a newspaper or one shadowy figure lurking in a tunnel, you've seen them all (where's Carol Reed when you need him?). Despite the film's relatively short running time, it feels padded (of course, this could be due in some part to the glacial pacing); how many scenes of Stone landing in Moscow on a foggy night do we need? The script, which was written by co-star Jim Piddock (you might remember him as the South African Consulate worker Danny Glover refers to as a "dumb son of a bitch" in Lethal Weapon 2, or from his work in Best in Show), comes across as the work of someone who knows which scenes are normally found in this type of film but doesn't understand anything about creating well-defined characters or realistic dialogue. (You should hear Stone argue about the evils of Communism or her ex-husband talk about how he wishes he could find someone to desire as much as she desires Everett; on second thought, you probably shouldn't.) There's no real flow or progression to the story; somebody forget about the how and the why of the whole thing.
There's not much to be said about the acting. I can't imagine why you'd cast Stone as a '60s housewife, and I guess she doesn't know why she's in the film, either. She's not even trying here. I get the feeling she thought dying her hair brown (or red -- it keeps changing) would be enough to bring gravity and force to her character. Everett comes off better, especially when he doesn't have to share the screen with Stone, but you'd think by now he'd have learned to stay away from blondes who are past their prime.
Because the film is set in the past, I just had to look for anachronisms, and I found a few. I could be wrong, but I don't think there was a Gap in Beirut in 1963, but that certainly appears to be where Stone's character was buying her clothes. You also get a couple of obvious shots of modern day London, New York, and Moscow (cars are usually a dead giveaway). My favorite mistake comes when Stone makes her first trip to New York to visit her daughter. We see her plane coming in to land, and she's flying on a Lockheed L-1011. Thing is, that particular plane didn't go into service until 1968. It gets better -- when the plane lands, it's somehow morphed into a Boeing 737 (guess nobody noticed the third engine had mysteriously vanished), another plane that didn't go into commercial use until 1968. (I was wondering when having a retired airline mechanic for a father would pay off.)
Okay, so let's get to the disc itself. Well, you get a washed-out full-frame transfer (you can really notice when the shot compositions have been screwed up) and a sub-par Dolby surround mix (the surrounds come to life to spread out the film's score during the opening and closing credits, but that's all). The only extras are trailers for a handful of other Lions Gate releases. Yippee. Speaking of Lions Gate, I'd like to know who added the exploding van and Huey Cobras to the cover art. That's false advertising.
Great, I've already used a John le Carré joke. Let's just move on.
Oh, yeah, it's guilty.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Rated R