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ORIGINAL SIN
Unrated Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Antonio Banderas, Angelina Jolie, Thomas Jane, Jack Thompson
Director: Michael Cristofer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French, Spanish, & Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: MGM
Features: See Review
Length: 118 Minutes
Release Date: March 26, 2002

“You cannot walk away from love.”

Film *1/2

The first time I saw the preview trailer for Original Sin, it was at a screening of the movie Bounce, released in late 2000. The release of the movie itself was delayed until late summer 2001, a decision that must have been made once it became clear that Angelina Jolie’s other summer release, Tomb Raider, had hit blockbuster status. All along, MGM must have never had complete faith in the movie, especially when its opening weekend contenders are no less than Rush Hour 2 and The Princess Diaries. Having finally seen the movie, I can certainly say that while it boasts two strong leading stars, Original Sin is the type of cheap thriller that is best suited for cable TV, particularly those cheeseball USA network original movies of yesteryear.

Set in Havana in the late 1800s, the movie stars Antonio Banderas as Luis, a prosperous man whose wealth comes from his coffee planting business. He has the money and the life any man would kill for, but the one thing he wants, which he doesn’t have, is to be married and totally in love. What he requires of his bride are truth, kindness, and young enough to bare children. He soon imports his bride to be from the United States. Her name is Julia (Angelina Jolie), a devilish beauty who is looking to start a new life in Havana and leave her past behind. They first got to know each other through letters they have sent to one another, though she appears nothing like she does in the accompanying photos.

The two are soon married, and begin a sweet happy engagement with one another, at least that what it looks like. Luis has soon given her access to all of his financial resources. Anyone who’s seen Martin Scorsese’s Casino as many times as I have will instantly know how that gesture will turn out. In the midst of their passion-filled marriage, Luis is encountered by a private investigator (Thomas Jane), who claims to have been hired by Julia’s sister to check up on her whereabouts and well being. And what do you know, not too long after she has indeed gotten control of his heart and that Luis discovers that the woman he married is really an imposter, Julia suddenly disappears with all of Luis’ money and possessions. Desperate to get everything he lost back, Luis engages in a pursuit of Julia. It’s all in question that when he reaches her, will he kill her in rage, or give her one more chance? Will she come back to him, or does she have more treacherous surprises in store? At that point, I just about asked myself, “Do I really care?” My guess is you really have to be very involved in the story by this point, and I wasn’t involved for a single minute.

It’s really hard to care about the outcome of the tired plot. The only reason this movie will garner any viewers are the love scenes between Jolie and Banderas, and I must confess, Ms. Jolie is always a pleasure to look at without any clothes on. However, these love scenes are very few and they are very much overshadowed by the overwrought story.

Original Sin is all style and absolutely no substance whatsoever.

Video ***

MGM has issued a fair and generally decent anamorphic transfer that has its share of flaws, but not as many has the movie itself. Scenes in lighter areas are the best moments, and the scenery of Havana looks rather nicely in this presentation. It’s only the darker lit scenes that pale in comparison. A number of these scenes include moments of grain and loss of definition. A mixed looking disc, but not a horrendous looking one by far.

Audio ***

This is mostly a picture made up of dialogue, but it does have its share of supposedly suspenseful moments, which are heard nicely well in this 5.1 audio mix. There’s also a beauty of musical score by the brilliant Terence Blanchard, a veteran of Spike Lee movies, whose music is the best thing about the movie. Spoken words come through as clearly as can be, making this an adequately done presentation.

Features **1/2

The main highlight of this release is the fact that it’s an unrated version, including around two minutes of footage considered too racy for theaters. On the features level, MGM seems to have strayed far from their usual “Special Edition” brilliance. Included is a running commentary by director Michael Cristofer, a music video for Gloria Estefan’s song “You Can’t Walk Away From Love”, an animated photo gallery, and trailers for this film and the much superior release, Hart’s War.

Summary:

Original Sin contains the most attractive pairing of stars, but is no different than that of a carelessly done made-for-TV movie with a tired plot which would feel right at home on TV instead of the big screen.