Artisan // 1994 // 102 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Bromley // May 14th, 2004
To some, murder is an art.
Here it is, America -- a suspense thriller about art restoration! And chess strategy! And 500 year-old Flemish mysteries! Everyone is British, and everything is boring! You'll be on the edge of your seat, checking your watch and eyeing the exits by the time this mystery is Uncovered!
Julia (Kate Beckinsale, Serendipity, Pearl Harbor) is in the middle of restoring a centuries-old Flemish painting when she stumbles across a Latin inscription etched beneath the paint's surface: "Who killed the knight?" Julia takes up with a chess expert in an attempt to solve the mystery, but before long everyone surrounding the painting begins to die off. Is it a coincidence, or is someone trying to stop Julia from uncovering the truth?
Uncovered, made ten years ago, now finds its way onto DVD to take advantage of any post-Underworld, pre-Van Helsing cachet star Kate Beckinsale may have. The fact that she would go on to become a star -- if one can call her that -- is totally unrecognizable here (though I did like her in Laurel Canyon). When you take away the Hollywood makeover and add in the closely-cropped boy haircut she sports here, she actually looks a lot like Barret Oliver in The NeverEnding Story ("Bastian! Say my name!"). Beckinsale's consistently gratuitous nudity throughout the film is the only foreseeable hand Artisan will be able to play in selling this thing.
The events of the film unfold with all the urgency of needlepoint -- and not the really exciting kind, either. The really slow, laborious kind. For a while, I was concerned with my own inability to follow the plot -- until I realized that no one in the film had any idea what was going on either. Why Beckinsale's character decides to pursue the mystery of the inscription in the first place is unclear, as is the systematic discovery of clues as they pertain to chess strategy. Even the motives of the modern-day murderer make absolutely no sense. The people "closest to the painting" die off so that...um...Kate Beckinsale can worry about being next? I don't know. There is an explanation eventually -- and the revelation of the killer's identity is criminally obvious -- but by the time both roll around it's impossible to care.
What is most bewildering to me, however, is the film's decision to assign a single character trait to Beckinsale -- and, while you might say the fact that she has only one character trait is bad enough, you would be speaking too soon. Her single trait: she sneezes around men. That's it. I don't know why this is; no mention is made of a testosterone allergy, or a fear of intimacy, or even a head cold. Nothing. This habit is annoying when it occurs more than one time, and inexplicable more than twice. Now imagine it happening something like 27 times. It doesn't even pay off at any point, in case you're thinking she finally meets the one guy who doesn't make her sneeze or something. Nope. Every guy makes her sneeze -- even the one she ends up with. It has to be seen to be believed...not that I would recommend that.
What drew me to Uncovered -- what gave me any shred of interest or hope in the first place -- was that Jim McBride is credited as director. This is the man responsible for the 1983 Silver Surfer-laden Richard Gere remake of Godard's Breathless. McBride made The Big Easy and Great Balls of Fire!, for crying out loud. Say what you will about any of these films -- and many of you will, especially when it comes to Breathless -- but I happen to love them all. Those movies are alive; they're rock 'n' roll cinema. They've got a real red-blooded, American sensibility to them (even Breathless, which may be why so many consider it such a bastardization of the original). Uncovered doesn't have an American sensibility, obviously, but it doesn't have a particularly British sensibility to it either. It's got no sensibility, and no sense either (please refrain from the obvious Emma Thompson jokes -- that brave, brave woman deserves better). It has no point of view, and no discernible style -- and those are the reasons I love McBride in the first place. Uncovered is a film with no personality; it's an absolutely bland piece of work. Sad.
Artisan -- that bastion of quality and integrity -- once again works its special brand of DVD magic with Uncovered. The film is presented full frame, with only the opening and ending credits appearing in an aspect ratio of about 1.85:1 (though I noticed the bottom black bar continuously bouncing up and down). The overall look and sound is intensely British, and either you understand what I mean by that or you don't. The picture looks to be straight off the BBC, and the dialogue alternates between an audibly discernable echo and sounding entirely looped. There are no extras to speak of, save for a few bonus trailers for other Artisan (now Lions Gate) titles like The Punisher (2004) and Quicksand.
The disc's jacket claims that the film runs approximately 112 minutes, though on my player it only ran 102 -- I guess the use of the word "approximately" covers for the unaccounted ten minutes. You'll get no complaints from me, though. The shorter this movie is, the better. Please trust me on this.
What else can I possibly say? I mean, she just keeps sneezing.
Artisan is found guilty as usual, and Jim McBride is charged with reckless endangerment of his own career. The Court recommends that Kate Beckinsale keep her hair long, or it'll be off to the Swamps of Sadness for her. Court is adjourned.
Review content copyright © 2004 Patrick Bromley; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Release Year: 1994
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Bonus Trailers