Image Entertainment // 2008 // 88 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // January 4th, 2010
What if everything you believed was a lie?
"It's just a %!@#ing game, man."
Peter (Liam Neeson, Batman Begins) and Lisa (Laura Linney, The Exorcism of Emily Rose) are a happily married couple. Well, at least Peter has always thought so. When Lisa disappears, Peter begins to suspect that there might have been another man in her life. A search of her computer reveals that Lisa has been intimately involved with a man named Ralph (Antonio Banderas, The Mask of Zorro), who lives in Italy. Peter quickly purchases a gun, boards a flight to Milan, and determines to confront his wife's mysterious lover face-to-face. Plotting revenge is one thing, but carrying it out in reality is another. What will happen when the two men finally meet?
The most striking thing about The Other Man is how poorly thought-out it seems to be. It almost seems as if someone came up with a basic concept for a film ("Let's make a movie about a married man confronting the guy who's been having an affair with the married man's wife...I think we can get Liam Neeson to play the married man and maybe Antonio Banderas can play the other guy...") and then sort of half-heartedly figured out where they wanted the story to go next as they went along. Whatever the reason, The Other Man is an oddly-paced, unsatisfying movie that starts strong, goes nowhere for a long time and concludes with a remarkably forced third act.
The director is Richard Eyre, who wowed audiences and critics with his sizzling thriller Notes on a Scandal. That movie, overheated as it may have been at times, was a genuinely exciting and involving experience. Eyre brings the same level of melodramatic Sturm und Drang to the proceedings of The Other Man, but this intimate little story is by no means deserving of such treatment. A tale that should have been handled with delicacy and subtlety is instead served to us by a very overbearing chef. As a result of this, far too many of the film's big moments come across as unintentionally laughable. Just watch the scene in which Liam Neeson's daughter desperately pleads with her father to stop behaving in such a wild and irrational manner, and Neeson responds with a sort of wild-eyed lunacy that suggests he is truly going mad. All well and good, except for the manner in which the screenplay is using the characters hardly seems to call for something so dramatic (particularly when Neeson comes across as perfectly calm and sane just a couple of scenes later).
As that might suggest, the performances are somewhat uneven and problematic. Neeson is generally a reliable actor, and he is best during the early scenes in which he is finding out the truth about what his wife has been up to. The manner in which he subtly transitions through various stages of grief is quite moving, and we really feel his bitter outrage when he decides that he's going to take action (inadvisable as taking action may be). Alas, Neeson seems slightly puzzled as to how to handle the character after that (in fairness, so does the script). On the other hand, Antonio Banderas brings a surprisingly vigorous energy to his performance, delivering his dialogue as if he is starring in a third Zorro film. Sometimes this works, sometimes it seems silly. He's certainly interesting to watch. Linney is unfortunately sidelined for a pretty big chunk of the film (she's mostly seen in flashbacks as we see bits and pieces of her affair), and she never quite gets the opportunity to flesh out her character.
Without going into any spoileriffic details, let me say that the contrivance of the third act causes a number of problems that the film has a lot of trouble recovering from. That last act contains an essential piece of information that will later help us understand the entire film. Unfortunately, without that information a pretty large chunk of what happens in the first two acts seems irrational and stupid. This is a fault of the filmmakers, as they should have found a way to convince us that what is going is legitimate rather than forcing us to wonder what exactly we haven't been told. Consider the way David Fincher masterfully handled such a situation in Fight Club, or the way M. Night Shyamalan was able to avoid revealing his cards in The Sixth Sense. In The Other Man, we expect a twist because the story logically requires one. To make matters worse, the manner in which the characters respond to the information that is revealed still seems less than believable (the final couple of scenes in particular just ring false).
The hi-def transfer is fine, though this visually dour film doesn't really take full advantage of some of its lovely settings (particularly the streets of Milan). Detail is solid enough, despite a handful of moments that seem awfully soft. Black are reasonably deep, flesh tones are accurate, and there's a small measure of natural grain present throughout. It's not a knockout by any stretch of the imagination, but it'll do. Audio is similarly competent, presenting Stephen Warbeck's terribly concerned score with clarity and strength. The sound design isn't ambitious enough to be really immersive, but the track does a good job of distributing things throughout the speaker system. The only extras are a rather dull audio commentary with Eyre, a trailer and 24 minutes worth of interviews with Eyre, Liam Neeson, Antonio Banderas, Laura Linney, and Romala Garai.
I mean...I didn't hate it.
By turns tedious and terribly miscalculated, The Other Man is an unexpected dud. Here's hoping all involved move on to worthier projects.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R