Judge Daryl Loomis feels like he just got grifted out of a hundred minutes of his life.
Where the line is drawn between right and wrong.
One of my favorite documentaries of all time is F for Fake, the last film that Orson Welles directed. It's a film about frauds and fakes that is only partially factual, which is the beauty of the whole thing. Part of the film describes Elmyr de Hory, a ridiculously successful art forger who claimed to have hundreds of his paintings under different names in major galleries across the globe. Decades later, Elmyr has become the inspiration for Fake, the debut film from writer/director Gregory W. Friedle and a great example of a story that didn't need to be retold.
Daniel Jakor (Gabriel Mann, Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist) is the best artist that nobody has ever heard of. After years of failure and frustration, though, he finds a revenue stream in the form of forging the works of other popular artists and selling them to unsuspecting galleries. Gallery owner Tay Murphy (David Thornton, The Notebook) catches Daniel in the act, but offers him a deal. Deep in debt to a mobster named Seamus White (Robert Loggia, Lost Highway), a big time collector, and figures he can pay the man in forged art. Everything's working fine until Daniel's ex-girlfriend, an art authenticator, recognizes his handiwork and brings in the FBI. When Agent Tom Kozinski (Fisher Stevens, Short Circuit) arrives, the race is on to catch Daniel before White catches on and sends his goons out to finish off the artist.
Cons and frauds have made for some of my favorite viewing experiences so, in spite of the fact that it didn't look very good, I gave Fake a shot. That was my big mistake. "Judge a book by its cover," I always say, but unfortunately did not heed my own advice. No matter how much I love a good art forgery, the story became so convoluted so quickly that little could have saved it. I don't just mention F for Fake simply for comparison; it genuinely appears that Friedle saw the Elmyr portion of the movie and loved it so much that he dramatized the story for his own purposes. That doesn't have to be so bad, necessarily, but he doesn't even try to camouflage the real story into something that looks original. Friedle even uses morally relativistic quotes by Elmyr about art forgery, all of which can be heard in Welles's film, in the drastically overused narration. David describes every aspect of his life in these monologs that never seem to end, but I guess they had to put something over the incessant painting montages.
The FBI part of the plot feels convenient and tacked on, seemingly there only to pad the running time. It's easy enough that an art forger is involved with an art authenticator, but when he lets her in on the secret mark that identifies all of Daniel's work and she gives him up to the Feds as soon as she notices it, the whole thing just seems like an excuse to get a part in the picture for Fisher Stevens. He didn't have a whole lot to work with, but he does pretty well with what he was given. Everybody does a relatively good job in their roles, with Robert Loggia's scene chewing the obvious highlight, but the script is too overblown and boring for any of it to really resonate anywhere.
To its credit, Fake is a competently shot film with good production values and decent camerawork from Matthew Boyd. There's nothing flamboyant about it, but it's clean and efficient. It's too bad the rest of the movie couldn't follow suit, but it's a dull and convoluted mystery that's anything but thrilling.
The disc for Fake arrives from Millennium Entertainment in a technically decent, but bare bones edition. The anamorphic image looks pretty good all around, with good black levels and no compression issues to speak of. The surround sound is very average, with little going on in the rear channels, but clear and crisp dialog and music. There are no extras on the disc and, for that, I am thankful.
If you're looking for a more interesting story about art forgery that gets the point across in way less than a hundred minutes, watch F for Fake and leave Fake hanging in the gallery.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Millennium Entertainment
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