Judge David Johnson and the Hessens just don't get along. And that's a fact, Jack.
The first thing you'll notice about The Hessen Conspiracy (a.k.a. The Hessen Affair) is the terrible Photoshop art on the DVD cover case. There's just something about Fake Billy Zane's head. It seems out of proportion and pasted awkwardly on Fake Billy Zane's torso.
So, Billy Zane is in this movie and he plays an Army officer named Jack Durant. It's 1945 and Jack is wrapping up his WWII duties while killing time in a fancy castle in Frankfurt, Germany. While there, he discovers a cache of priceless jewels, belonging to the princess of the castle. He and his hot new flame, Lt. Kathleen Nash (Lyne Renee) hatch a plan to smuggle the jewels out of the country and hook up with a sleazy buyer in the United States.
But things aren't that easy and soon the lovers find themselves caught in the middle of an Army investigation, a gangster's retaliation and their own tenuous alliance.
The Hessen Conspiracy is alright. It's a bit corny, contrived, and tries really hard to be sexy and noir, but by the time the credits roll, there's not a whole lot to take issue with. The story unfolds nicely enough and doles out the plot twists effectively, leading up the Necessary Twist that's not quite neck-snapping, though satisfying.
Billy Zane does a good job as the headliner and, frankly, looks like he lost a generous amount of weight. He's not quite back to that-douche-in-Titanic stature, but he's got that spunk back. On the other side is Lyne Renee, a suitable femme fatale, benefiting from a hearty effort by the cinematographer to light her face like she's in a Bogart movie.
Unfortunately, that over-eagerness to "noir the movie up" backfires. That lighting gimmick is overused and distractive, the script feeds the characters smart-ass one-liners (because, as everyone knows, in the 1940s people only talked in smart-ass one-liners) and Zane's narration just seems corny. At least he didn't say "dame."
These are dopey elements, yet taken in the context of the whole film, non-lethal. For a decent, nicely-staged period suspense film, The Hessen Conspiracy largely delivers.
The disc: a nice 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, Dolby Digital 5.1 and no extras.
Not entirely guilty, no.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
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