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Friday, March 13, 2009

MICHAEL CLAYTON (2007)

Apparently, writer/megger Tony Gilroy saved up a ton of dialogue while writing those laconic scripts for the BOURNE Trilogy. Suddenly, he can’t shut up! This one’s a tricked up, American business morality tale, with corporate killers who really are killers!, and studded with ‘gotcha’ plot hooks meant to pass as dramatic epiphanies. It's like mixing the worst of David Mamet with the worst of Paddy Chayefsky. At least, George Clooney plays it smart and hangs back as the high-powered ‘fixer’ at a top Manhattan law firm, but there’s so much on his plate the script reads like a ‘plot bible’ for an ‘80s NBC drama series. He’s in hock to the mob, his law firm is not so secretly on the selling block, his ex & kid are cause for agita, his firm’s top lawyer is off his ‘meds’ and about to throw his big case over to the ‘little people,’ et al. It sounds like fun and there’s certainly a bevy of acting talent on board, but Gilroy thinks he’s made something serious simply because he hasn’t supplied a laugh in two long hours. He’s too busy slicing & dicing the linear continuity so we can’t see just how simplistic the action is. Or resorting to hoary plot devices (over-explicit, overheard phone messages, bombs that miss their mark when nature calls, taciturn killers-for-hire who are ‘just doing a job’) to sort things out. Yet, when a spark of real dramatic menace stares him in the face (as when Clooney leaves his kid in the car at a critical junction), Gilroy doesn’t seem to notice the possibilities.

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