When William H Macy turns on his hangdog look, it’s so convincing he makes Bill Murray look like a lottery winner – and yet, even his superlative talent for making big roles out of little guys fails to lift this David Mamet adaptation.

Based on the writer’s 1982 one-act play of the same name, the film version feels like the kid shuffling in late at the party, after American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman and Falling Down’s D-Fens have already come in, drunk all the booze and gone home with the best looking girls. It offers too little, too late.

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Macy’s Edmond is a businessman, who, after a chance run-in with a fortune teller, seemingly on loan from David Lynch, abruptly decides to ditch his wife (Rebecca Pidgeon) and embark on a night of hedonism in the city. What he initially views as his liberation, however, quickly descends into something much darker and more squalid as a series of encounters with folk on the fringes lead him into a spiral of violence.

“You are not where you belong,” the fortune teller says, and neither is this screenplay - which belongs in a nice, small theatre, not the big screen.

From the outset, it is impossible to get close to Edmond. While Bateman was a seductive, if emotionless, addition to the Eighties man-on-the-edge genre in American Psycho and Michael Douglas’s descent into madness in Falling Down a gradual one, Edmond’s would-be divorcee’s progress feels stilted, unbelievable and far too quick.

The direction certainly doesn’t help. The CSI franchise manages to recreate the sense of a city underbelly with menaces far more acutely than it is rendered here, with Edmond initially seeming lost in an Eighties pop video rather than in any kind of realistic urban jungle. Later scenes in a prison, meanwhile, are scarily reminiscent of Prisoner Cell Block H.

The attempt to add some sense of Edmond’s philosophy – latent racism, homophobia, misogyny - to proceedings is rendered as impotent as the central protagonist since his observations are presented as a series of near-soliloquies thrusting us firmly out of the multiplex and back into the theatre.

It all comes down to a lack of belief. Because we don’t see clearly where Edmond has come from, it makes it very difficult to travel with him on his journey and when, later in the movie, a chance encounter with a waitress (Julia Stiles) unaccountably leads to sex and something more sinister, incredulity grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go until the end of the film.

“These things happen, then you’re done,” says Edmond. A philosophy Macy may wish to subscribe to as he attempts to draw a veil over this particular role.

Reviewed on: 06 Jul 2007
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A chance encounter with a fortune teller sees a white-collar worker descend into an urban hell.
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Director: Stuart Gordon

Writer: David Mamet, adapted from his own screenplay.

Starring: William H Macy, Julia Stiles, Dylan Walsh, Joe Mantegna, Rebecca Pidgeon, Denise Richards, Mena Suvari, Bai Ling

Year: 2005

Runtime: 76 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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American Psycho