Our review of Original Sin (Blu-ray), published July 7th, 2011, is also available.
You cannot walk away from love
No, but you can walk away from this movie.
Facts of the Case
Original Sin is a film of obsession that is based on a novel called "Waltz Into Darkness" by the pulp writer Cornell Woolrich. Woolrich also wrote the source material which would inspire my favorite Hitchcock movie, Rear Window. This novel was made into a film once before by Francois Truffaut called Mississippi Mermaid starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Catherine Deneuve. I have seen the former adaptation and its worth searching out. What does this have to do with Original Sin? Not much, except I can't find the energy to write up a plot description that makes any sense.
The terrible thing about Original Sin is that it isn't particularly terrible. Rather, it's just bad enough that it always holds marginal sway over an attention span with the hope that things will suddenly turn better, kind of like this entire ninth season of The X-Files. But I digress.
To give credit where it is due, this is a well produced movie that features beautiful cinematography courtesy of Rodrigo Prieto (Amores Perros); a lush, sexy score from Terence Blanchard (Clockers); and richly detailed production design by David J. Bomba (My Dog Skip). On top of that, the movie is competently directed by writer Michael Cristofer (Gia) and is acted with great earnestness and dedication by leads Antonio Banderas (The Mask of Zorro) and Angelina Jolie (Tomb Raider). This earnestness is carried over into their long and sweaty sex scene. Facing facts, this is pretty much the only reason people will rent this disc. It is worth noting that the disc under review here is the Unrated Version of Original Sin. Now since this movie sat on the shelf for well over a year and played in movie theaters for about 18 minutes I cannot report to you exactly was not shown in the theatrical cut. Still, does anyone out there really care? Both actors are beautiful people and there is copious amounts of flesh exposed, but to my mind it just all seemed so contrived, so without heat. In fact, the only thing that kept my attention through the sex scene was how all of Miss Jolie's numerous tattoos were kept hidden. Was it CGI, or make-up, or was this movie shot before her much publicized relationship to Billy Bob Thornton and the body art that ensued?
So, if you strip away the movie's number one calling card, what you are left with is a screenplay is written in such a heavy handed and melodramatic fashion that I caught myself laughing out loud at much of the dialogue. Obsession and love have long been the fodder of movies, but if they are to succeed, we need to care and understand the needs of the lead character. We need to understand that which fuels his obsession and clouds his reason. As written by Cristofer, we are never given that window into the Banderas character's soul. While watching Original Sin, all I could keep thinking was that Luis Vargas (Banderas) was a complete and utter moron. Every action he took screamed of a movie character going through the motions of a plot while bearing little resemblance to the actions of a person who existed in the real world. Angelina Jolie is a total babe with lips to die for, but if I found out this woman had stolen every penny I had in the bank, I too would want to chase her down, but not to try and get her back in my bed. If Banderas' character is a fool, then Jolie's is a blank slate. Her motivations are explained, sort of, but like everything else in Original Sin, none of it feels real. Jolie does a good job of looking interesting in what she is doing, but the feeling of going through the motions is always lurking around. That said, both actors do what they can with these nonexistent roles and neither really embarrasses themselves, which in itself is a remarkable feat. As an exercise in filmmaking, Original Sin constantly strains the limits of believability and almost seems to feel the need to "one up" each ridiculous action with another. It continues and continues until it reaches a climax that feels as contrived as everything that went before it, and with that, it simply stops.
The more I consider Original Sin, the more I don't know why this movie exists. Its entertainment value is limited to the footage of its stars getting naked and simulating having sex, with everything that follows being an unholy bore. How is it that bad ideas like Original Sin, endless sequels, and pointless remakes keep getting the Hollywood green light? Is the studio system such a creatively bankrupt group of institutions that this is what we have to suffer through in what seems to be a weekly endurance test? Even though this movie was a disaster with moviegoers, it still seems like the studio execs learn nothing and keep throwing trash at a wall, hoping something will stick and bring in decent box office for a week or two. The more I sit here and write, the angrier and more depressed I become.
As a disc, MGM has done a nice job with Original Sin. To that end, it, along with Tomb Raider makes two Angelina Jolie films that have received more special content than dozens of other, more deserving movies. Okay, I'm really starting to get myself down.
The film is given an anamorphic transfer that maintains the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and it's a good, if not stellar image. Colors are lush, rich, and warm while never appearing overly saturated. Blacks are solid and shadows are full of detail. Edge enhancement does ring through on a few occasions, but it's nothing too disturbing. Still, if the image has one major flaw it is with the source material. Any film shot anamorphic is going to have some degree of film grain present and sure enough, it's there, but what is surprising about the image for Original Sin is the amount of flaws to be seen. There are numerous examples of nicks, specks, and dirt all through the movie's running time, and they were frequent enough that they became distracting. One would think with a movie only two years old these issues would be nonexistent, but they are there and they do pose a problem.
It would appear that MGM surely do like their Dolby 5.1 Surround mixes. In addition to the expected English track, there are also 5.1 options in French, Spanish, and Portuguese. As is to be expected in this kind of movie, the mix is front loaded with limited use made of the rear surrounds, though everything is recorded clearly and cleanly. Dialogue is easily heard, sound effects are well mixed and never sound forced, while Terence Blanchard's score is allowed to unfold in a warm, unforced manner. It's a good mix that serves the film well.
The chief highlight of the extras is a running commentary with writer/director Michael Cristofer. As far as commentary tracks go, this one is acceptable. There are the expected dry spells that you find with most tracks that feature only one speaker, but they are brief, if a little more common as the movie rolls on. As a speaker, Cristofer is rather dry and spends a little too much time on the facets of movie making that simply do not interest me. I suppose if I had liked Original Sin a little more I would have had greater interest, but it is another 118 minutes of my life that I wasted for you, the Verdict reader. Besides the commentary track, there is a music video by Gloria Estefan, the movie's trailer, and a brief photo gallery.
Original Sin is an action best left alone. If you have to see it, wait for it to pop up on cable, but don't waste your money. This is one movie that should have stayed on the shelf. You want to see sex scenes, go for the real thing and rent a porn DVD. I hear the multi-angle function is good for a couple of laughs.
Guilty. Michael Cristofer and Original Sin are sentenced to five years of hard labor. Court dismissed.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
• Audio Commentary with Director Michael Cristofer
Review content copyright © 2002 Harold Gervais; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.