Volume 21, Number 46 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | March 27 - April 2, 2009
Koch on Film
By Ed Koch
Many reviewers were too generous in their critique of this film. The movie failed in its attempt to combine the sexy byplay of “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” with the sleekness and gadgetry of the James Bond series. I found “Duplicity” to be boring and often incomprehensible.
The story centers on two former operatives: MI6 agent Ray (Clive Owen) and Claire (Julia Roberts), who works for the CIA. The two are now working together for a private corporation seeking to identify a secret product being developed by a rival company. The secretiveness involved in ascertaining what that product is and obtaining its formula add to the ridiculousness of the movie.
The repartee between Roberts and Owen, intended to be artful and sexually exciting, is repetitious and adds little fire to the picture. Roberts is no longer the enticing, outstanding “Pretty Woman” she once was. She was wonderful in that film with Richard Gere, but her efforts now seem tired. Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti play the roles of dueling corporate presidents. None of the actors, including Roberts and Owen, are spectacular in their performance, and I doubt any of them will place this film at the top of their resumes.
As I was writing this review, PT called me and mentioned that she had seen the film. Before I had a chance to comment, she told me that she thought it was “boring.” In addition, two other friends with whom I had brunch mentioned that they had seen the movie and both thought it was vastly overrated. You should ignore the hype surrounding the picture.
HS said: “I thought the movie would be entertaining: beautiful scenery in Europe, and smart badinage (not bondage, except in the Jamesian Jacobin sense). Instead, I found the most confusing English-language picture I had seen since “Nashville,” which had other virtues. You couldn’t tell one corporation from another, who was working for whom in which part of the movie. You didn’t even know whether the big secret existed. The plus is that the backdrops were magnificent. New York skyscrapers, Rome, Venice, the Bahamas, etc., but the unbelievable characters got in the way. I try not to be ageist, but you could have had a better movie with the children of the stars. Paul Giamatti was much better when he was thin in the wine movie. Clive Owen was a traditional Brit. Julia Roberts did her best, but she is neither an ingénue nor a spy queen. She does have a fine smile.‘Duplicity’ came in fourth at the box office in its opening weekend. How does the public so often judge movies ahead of the critics?”
“Sin Nombre” (+)
This is a very powerful film on the subject of illegal immigrants crossing into the U.S. from the southern border of Texas. Many of the individuals are Mexicans, but others enter that country from its southern border seeking to avoid its border patrol and reach the Rio Grande.
In addition to the efforts of individuals to cross the U.S.-Mexican border, the film also includes a story of gang warfare in Mexico, Central and South America. The leading gang is called Mara Salvatrucha or MS-13 which, bizarrely, started in Los Angeles, north of the border. Its members are primarily Hispanic, and the gang currently exists throughout the U.S.
Many illegals seek to cross Mexico by riding the freight trains. In the film Mara gang members Willy/Casper (Edgar Flores) and Lil’ Mago (Tenoch Huerta Mejia) board a train planning to steal money from the illegals while they pass through their gang’s territory. Lil’ Mago tries to rape a young Honduran woman, Sayra (Paulina Gaitan), who is riding on the train with her father hoping to illegally enter the U.S. and join him and his new family in New Jersey. Willy/Casper murders Lil’ Mago for the attempted rape and he is soon on the run. He has committed many terrible acts, but sparks of decency are evidenced in his defense of Sayra and in his seeking to protect an adolescent male, nicknamed Smiley (Kristyan Ferrer), who wanted to join the gang.
As I watched with horror the acts of the gang, which included killing a member of an opposing gang and feeding the body to dogs, I thought of the pressures our country will soon face as a result of the Obama Administration plan, supported by Senator John McCain, to legalize the present 12-20 million illegal aliens now in this country and give them what is referred to as a path to citizenship. I oppose that plan but do support increasing legal immigration. In the lead denouncing the opponents of the proposal to provide illegal immigrants with a path to citizenship is The New York Times. It smears those who oppose amnesty as, in effect, fascists, by referring to them as Nativists (an historically anti-immigrant party). Some who join them in their support of the plan refer to opponents as racists. Many of us opposed to legalization and amnesty believe in increasing the number of legal immigrants by doubling or tripling the current number. We now take in 750,000 legal immigrants a year plus 250,000 refugees, all of whom are eligible for U.S. citizenship.
I believe the issue of immigration will be a priority next year in this country as President Obama tries to deliver on his promise of amnesty. If you are interested in the issue of immigration, this picture is particularly worth seeing. All of the performers are brilliant in their roles, and I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them were not professional actors. (In Spanish, with English subtitles.)