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Some would have considered "Original Sin"  a failure long before it hit theater screens. You don't have to look any further than the film's 2000 copyright to determine this. This is yet another in a long line of films that the studio has cast aside letting it sit ready for release on the shelf. It's not that the film has nothing going for it, because you have two A list stars in Antonio Banderas and Angelina Jolie, both who were hot off certain projects. MGM at the time wasn't having much luck with their recent theatrical output and was unsure of the target audience for the this film. A number of delays followed from summer to winter then finally landing in the fall of 2001 where it made a quick blink-and-you-missed-it type appearance. Despite many other critics dismissing the film as junk and the general public staying away in droves, my view is no matter how bad a film may look I'll watch it once. After viewing the Unrated edition of the film on DVD I wholeheartedly agree with the general population; this is one bad movie.

Movie
Luis Vargas (Antonio Banderas) is the wealthy owner of a Coffee company in his home country of Cuba. He's got everything; money, a fancy home, his own staff, everything but a woman to call his wife. To solve this problem he orders a mail order bride from the United States whom he plans to marry. He waits by the dock for her ship to arrive and after everyone has gotten off he is approached by a beautiful looking women who is certainly not the subject of the photograph he received in the mail. His bride to be is Julia Russell (Angelina Jolie) from Idaho. It seems as though they have deception in common as not only is she much prettier than the photo, he is not the simple coffee plant worker he made himself out to be. A short time later he is married and a short time after that he and his new found wife are sharing the most intimate of physical contact.  Luis has fallen in love immediately and begins making sure his new wife has full access to his many bank accounts. Weeks pass and Julia's sister Emily, who has been sending letters and not receiving replies, begins to investigate. She hires a private investigator by the name of Downs (Thomas Jane) to look into the situation. Luis convinces Julia to write a letter to her sister and she reluctantly agrees. Before you know it Emily has come to town and Julia has run off with all of Luis's riches.

Awaiting her arrival
To be completely fair to director Michael Cristofer (Gia, Body Shots) for a short time I was enjoying this film. I do want to stress that it was only a short time because before you know it the film took off in a totally different direction that was neither interesting nor engaging. This is another one of those cases where there is so much wrong with the film that choosing where to start is difficult.  Still I'll try and make a go of it. Director Michael Cristofer has made of a total of three films including this one. His directorial debut Gia, also starring Jolie, was an HBO telefilm that was generally strong but had some minor problems preventing me from giving a recommendation. His second feature, Body Shots, was also littered with problems. This film, his third, is much the same way though the problems have multiplied where there's far more wrong than right. Starting off with the screenplay which is quite frankly one of the worst in recent memory. Cristofer throws in so many plot turns that he left my mind spinning. He loves her, he loves her not, he loves her and round and round in circles we go. I don't think the problem is with the source material as this film is based on Cornell Woolrich's novel Waltz into Darkness which has been filmed before as Mississippi Mermaid and whose other work has been adapted by Hitchcock into Rear Window. How much of the original story is present remains to be seen in addition to his director credit Cristofer is also billed as the film's screenwriter. Moving on we have what appears to be the longest two hour film on the planet. After a lightning fast opening 20 minutes the action suddenly dies and the film becomes tediously slow. So slow in fact that when the film ended I glanced at my watch expecting four hours to have passed instead of two.

Looking down the cast list you have Antonio Banderas and Angelina Jolie who are two fairly consistent actors in terms of the quality of their performances. Sure they've both made some mistakes when selecting roles but overall they can still be counted on for a performance that's well above average. Or so I'd like to think. The performances turned in by Banderas and Jolie in this film are completely wooden as neither one of them really attempt to bring anything to the picture. This comes as a disappointment as at the time of this film's release both were coming off excellent performances in "Spy Kids" and "Tomb Raider" respectively. Jolie appears especially bored with the material probably wondering what she did to deserve this role. Banderas turns in his worst performance since the 13th Warrior, a film in which sleep began to look like a more appealing option. As bad as both of their performances in the film are, there is someone whose is all that much worse. Thomas Jane, who will be seen in theaters this weekend in The Sweetest Thingventures into Razzie territory as the private investigator who is sent by the sister of the mail order bride. Jane totally overacts this part as if this film were some sort of outrageous, over the top comedy. Someone should have told him he's in a period piece and not Dumb and Dumber.

For all this film does wrong one might hope there's some light at the end of the tunnel. I'm here to say that it's as if the tunnel is being lit by a flashlight with its battery about to run out. The cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto is a mixed bag containing some jaw droppingly gorgeous imagery and some pictures that seem downright lifeless. The score by Terrance Blanchard sounds like something out of a TV movie of the week as there is little originality in the music. David J Bomba's production design is visually appealing for the exteriors but the interiors seem dull and drab. In the end Original Sin is unable to sustain the audience's interest in the film for longer than short bursts. It certainly comes off as a B-movie and not a particularly good one at that. If not for the big name stars this film would have found it's way straight to video. Perhaps that wouldn't have been such a bad thing. The tag line for the film may be "You Can't Walk Away From Love" but you can and should walk away from Original Sin.

Note:
MGM, in an effort to boost sales of this title and to please family friend video outlets has released "Original Sin" in both the theatrical ("R" Rated ) and unrated cuts. Although I didn't see the film theatrically it's fairly obvious that the added footage is more of the film's somewhat steamy sex scene. The difference in the running times of the two versions amounts to about 3 or 4 minutes so don't expect much.  Also worth mentioning is that while the "Unrated edition" contains added material, the theatrical "R" rated cut does not.

There she is.
Video
MGM presents Original Sin in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer which I'm happy to report is one of the studio's best efforts in recent memory. Recently MGM has been making waves in the DVD community with their support of Pan and Scan transfers on the majority of their day and date DVD releases. Luckily there is no such option on this disc, meaning viewers have no choice but to enjoy the film as it was meant to be seen. Sharpness and detail are downright impressive, appearing with a consistent level of razor-like sharpness even throughout the film's many dark sequences. Colors were another standout aspect of the transfer appearing rich, well saturated and warm. Flesh tones seem accurate, though due to the lighting in some scenes Ms Jolie appears with what seems to be a slight glow. I've never seen Ms Jolie's skin so crystal clear and perfect so this is really something to behold. Moving on, the print used is in excellent condition having probably only been run through a projector once or twice. There are a few minor marks that aren't really evident on my primary display device but become more clear when played on my computer's DVD-Rom drive. I noticed most of these specks early on and they had all but cleared up entirely by about 30 or 40 minutes in to the film.  Edge enhancement is non-existent as is pixelation. There are a couple of scenes that have a bit of a grainy look to them but as this was intended by the director and the fact that it's not distracting it's really a non-issue. One other thing that's worth noting is that some sort of digital wiping effect was used to remove Angelina Jolie's tattoos. This was done in post production on the main feature and therefore is not newly edited for this DVD. MGM pulled out all the stops for this transfer and it really shows.  Color me impressed.

Audio
MGM presents Original Sin in Dolby Digital 5.1. Although I didn't see the film during it's brief theatrical run, I'd like to think I knew exactly how the disc would sound from the moment I saw the trailer. That appears to be the case here. Being mostly a dialogue driven drama the most important aspect of the audio presentation is the dialogue, which is nicely recorded with a natural sound on the disc.  Moving on from there what we have is a fairly standard front-heavy mix where the music and majority of the action populates the left and right channels. There are a few scenes that break away from this style and have the score spilling into the rear speakers. There's also a couple of convincing uses of the split surround technique, like where a horse and it's rider ride off into the sunset. Sound effects like gun shots sound realistic as if you were near the gun when it was being fired. Aside from a few instances where it breaks away from expectations this sounds about as a good as it can without taking any creative steps to improve the audio experience. A fine yet simple soundtrack that's conveyed nicely by this mix.

Extras
It comes across as being a little disappointing nowadays if a disc doesn't have an audio commentary.  I'm not sure why exactly but it seems almost like a requirement just as an anamorphic widescreen transfer is now standard. I do applaud the studios and the participants for their continued support of the audio commentary concept but there are sometimes when I just don't want to listen to someone talk about the film I just watched. Sometimes this is because I want the movie to stand on it's own and other times it's  because I don't want to invest any more time into the film. As a reviewer I feel it's my duty to go through the entire disc from start to finish regardless of my personal feelings so nine times out of ten I'll listen to the commentaries provided anyway. Sitting down for the audio commentary on this disc is writer/director Michael Cristofer. His discussion begins strongly going over how he approached the project, how it evolved from it's original state and how he settled on the actors and actresses for the parts. It then moves into more a on-screen narration as the usual back-patting occurs. Just once I'd like to hear a director admit to making mistakes and being unhappy with the film. However that isn't likely to happen too soon as these commentary tracks are turning into a lovefest more and more often. That said, the track isn't all bad as there are a few interesting stories from the set, including one detailing how the sex scene was shot, that are informative. A mildly enjoyable commentary track for a film that's anything but. Given the choice I'd probably listen to this track again over watching the film. But that's just me.

Included under the option of "Original Theatrical Trailers" lies the original theatrical trailer for Original Sin presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. This trailer never really captured my interest theatrically but now having seen the film I can safely say that the trailer is indeed an accurate representation of the film. Also included is the theatrical trailer for Hart's War which made a relatively quick exit from theaters a month or so back and should be on DVD in the next four or five months. The Hart's War trailer is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 audio and 1.85:1 though unlike the other trailer this one is not anamorphically enhanced.

A month or so ago I spoke out against how image galleries were handled on DVD, saying that more discs should contain animated galleries as opposed to stills you click through with your remote control or mouse. Since then it seems that every image gallery I've come across has used this technique. Original Sin's animated gallery consists of a number of stills that are presented tot some of the film's score. This runs for a bit over two minutes and contains some lovely stills from the set.

Rounding out the bonus features section of the disc is the music video for You Can't Walk Away from Love by Gloria Estefan, which can also be heard over the credits. This is a fairly straightforward music video containing clips from the film intercut with footage of the singer.

The two of them together.
Overall
After watching Original Sin there is no questioning the reason it was sitting on the studio shelves for such a long time pending its eventually short theatrical release. It's a very weak film with almost nothing going for it. Angelina Jolie and Antonio Banderas look bored, the film is very slow almost to the point that it will induce sleep from the audience. On the other hand MGM's "Unrated Edition" DVD features a very strong video transfer and an effective audio mix, not to mention a couple of bonus features.  Fans of the film will be more than happy with this DVD edition, though everyone else, including fans of Angelina and Antonio, would be best off giving Original Sin a rent at best. I am glad that MGM have put out such a strong video transfer and do believe that it needs to be seen, but the film is another story all together. I can recommend the disc itself but not the film that goes along with it. Tread carefully with Original Sin


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