Tag Archives: Vinessa Shaw

The Quiet Room (1993, Steven Soderbergh)

The Quiet Room really, really, really, relies on its twist. The ending is really predictable too; like, director Soderbergh and writer Howard A. Rodman do way too well on the foreshadowing. Because Room is a slightly exaggerated noir–part of the “Fallen Angels” TV anthology–nothing really needs to be foreshadowed. There’s a twist Soderbergh and Rodman set up in the first third, the end just delivers on it in an extreme way. Two twists for the price (or time) of one.

By the last third, when it’s just the countdown to the reveal, both lead performances softly crater. Soderbergh makes sure the lovely Emmanuel Lubezki and luscious Armin Ganz production design slow the descent. But the descent is inevitable because it’s just a noir TV anthology episode. With a source short story. And a somewhat salacious twist, at least as far as noir goes; if Quiet Room were going for homage, it might work better. Instead, it tries to be something different.

Joe Mantegna and Bonnie Bedelia are dirty cops. They’re having a love affair, which no one knows about; besides them, the only significant character is Mantegna’s teenage daughter, Vinessa Shaw (in the most important performance and the consistently worst). Mantegna is a single dad, out all hours because he and Bedelia have a shakedown racket going. Bedelia collars prostitutes and then beats information out of them about their johns so Mantegna can go and shake down the johns. Peter Gallagher has what seems like a great cameo as one of them, but then J.E. Freeman is one of the other ones and he’s freaking amazing in a much smaller role. Freeman walks away with the whole thing. Especially given how it finishes up.

Mantegna is mostly all right. He really whiffs when he needs to make it work. Bedelia’s better. Neither of them get good roles though. It’s all about Freeman though, performance-wise.

Soderbergh’s direction is fine. He’s got a handful of nice shots and does well with the actors. Sometimes well with the actors. There’s only so much to do with the script, especially as it starts barreling towards the inevitable conclusion. Soderbergh doesn’t do anything to slow its descent, much less stop it.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Steven Soderbergh; teleplay by Howard A. Rodman, based on a short story by Frank E. Smith; “Fallen Angels” created by William Horberg; director of photography, Emmanuel Lubezki; edited by Stan Salfas; music by Peter Bernstein; production designer, Armin Ganz; produced by Horberg, Lindsay Doran and Steve Golin; released by Showtime Networks.

Starring Joe Mantegna (Carl Streeter), Bonnie Bedelia (Sally Creighton), Vinessa Shaw (Jeannie Streeter), Patrick Breen (Doc), J.E. Freeman (Johnny Cabe), and Peter Gallagher (Dr. Yorgrau).


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Puncture (2011, Adam Kassen and Mark Kassen)

Puncture is a crusading attorney picture with a couple twists. First, there’s no trial and, specifically, no eureka moment in the trial. Second, the crusading attorney in question–played by Chris Evans–is haunted by more than demons or the bottle, he’s a rabid drug fiend. Oddly, Puncture never condemns the character’s drug use. In fact, he seems more with it high than not.

The film features technically wonderful performance, but no engaging character relationships. Co-director Mark Kassen plays Evans’s law partner–the responsible one–but their relationship never resonates. The film shows its most personality when it’s Evans, Kassen and Jesse L. Martin (as a mutual friend) hanging out. But Martin only shows up for two little scenes.

Brett Cullen is great as the bad guy attorney and he and Evans have a mildly interesting rapport. Puncture‘s problem is how the Kassen Brothers present Evans. They don’t really know what to do with the character; it might be a case where being accurate to history (it’s a true story) hobbles a film.

The only weak performance is probably Marshall Bell as Evans and Kassen’s client. He’s supposed to be fed up, vulgar and endearing. While Bell looks the part, he’s never believably earnest. On the other hand, Michael Biehn looks slicker than a used car salesman in Pomade but he still comes off as earnest.

The direction’s okay, though the wide frame is a mistake. The digital transitions are lame.

Puncture‘s plodding, but worth it for the acting.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Adam Kassen and Mark Kassen; screenplay by Chris Lopata, based on a story by Paul Danizger and Ela Thier; director of photography, Helge Gerull; edited by Chip Smith; music by Ryan Ross Smith; production designer, Christopher Stull; released by Millennium Entertainment.

Starring Chris Evans (Mike Weiss), Mark Kassen (Paul Danziger), Michael Biehn (Red), Brett Cullen (Nathaniel Price), Marshall Bell (Jeffrey Dancort), Jesse L. Martin (Daryl King), Roxanna Hope (Sylvia), Jennifer Blanc (Stephany), Tess Parker (Jaime Weiss), Kate Burton (Senator O’Reilly) and Vinessa Shaw (Vicky Rogers).


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