Flawless

Flawless

****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

A drag queen saving up for a sex change and a stroke victim who happens to be a retired cop are not your average Hollywood heroes. But the performances aren't average either. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robert De Niro exceed all expectation - which for them is saying something.

Joel Schumacher has made disappointing movies (Dying Young, Batman & Robin) and surprisingly good ones (Falling Down, A Time To Kill). He started life as a costume designer before becoming a writer (Car Wash, The Wiz) and director. Style is obviously important to him. He works in the mainstream and yet has an edgy reputation, as if secretly yearning for low-budget independence.

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Walt (De Niro) lives in a cheap hotel in the bad quarter of New York. It's his neighbourhood. He knows everyone and, since his wife died, feels comfortable there, except for those faggot fruitcakes in the room upstairs who make such a racket with their music and nonsense.

One night there are shots and sounds of fighting on the floor above. Walt takes his gun and goes out to investigate. A drug dealer's heavy mob are tearing the place apart in search of stolen money. Already, a prostitute has been killed. Walt doesn't make it. He collapses on the stair and is rushed to hospital.

Rusty (Hoffman) lives in the apartment looking down on Walt's, where he rehearses his club act with the other girls (guys). He has a sharp tongue, a dazzling wit and a deep desire to become a woman. Beneath the gay repartee and camp high jinks, he is lonely and sad.

Walt struggles to come to terms with his stroke, agonised by its debilitating effect on his ability to walk and talk. In desperation, he goes to Rusty for singing lessons, this hardcore conservative policeman asking a transvestite for help.

Hoffman and De Niro are superb. The acting alone makes Flawless essential. Schumacher's script is a bonus. The odd couple theme has moments of sentimentality that are immediately dashed by the look in De Niro's eye and the violent intervention of drug thugs.

Leave your prejudice at the door.

Reviewed on: 18 Apr 2007
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Flawless packshot
A retired, homophobic cop forms an unlikely bond with his transvestite neighbour following a stroke.
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