Scenes of the Crime (2001) / Drama-Crime
MPAA Rated: R for violence, language and some strong sexual content
Running Time: 91 min.
Cast: Jon Abrahams, Jeff Bridges, Noah Wyle, Bob Gunton, Peter Greene, Morris Chestnut, Madchen Amick
Director: Dominique Forma
Screenplay: Dominique Forma, Daniel Golka, Amit Mehta
I'm uncertain if Scenes if the Crime turned out the way writer-director Forma intended, but to all outward appearances, it feels very much like an unfinished project. The first clue comes from the amount of unnecessary scenes and characters that take up far too much screen time for what is supposed to be a taut crime thriller. The second indicator comes from the very abrupt and unsatisfying ending, which is the sort of thing you tend to see in low-budget films when the money runs out. Then when you see the credits roll out at the slowest pace possible without stopping, and you remember that the opening credits took just as long, you can only conclude that Scenes is about 45 minutes of movie padded with 45 minutes of what would normally have been deleted scenes for the DVD. I'm not sure what ended up on the cutting room floor, but I'm guessing the trailer for the film would be longer if you played them end to end.
Apparently this is based on a true story, but one source I've read states that it the origin of the story came from an anecdote passed to Forma while sitting in a bar, so take it for what it's worth. Jon Abrahams stars as Lenny, young and soon to be married, who makes some extra cash on the side by occasionally being a driver for a local criminal boss, Rick. Today's mission ends up being a kidnapping of a honcho in a rival crime organization, Jimmy (Jeff Bridges), but the plan goes awry, leaving Lenny to fend for himself in the van with only his gun to keep Jimmy from bolting. Meanwhile, Jimmy tries to persuade Lenny that what he's doing is foolish, confusing him until Lenny doesn't know what to believe...or who.
Former music video directors usually tend to put too much style into their movies, having been trained to use quick cuts and zany camera angles to create the appearance of excitement, even when there's none. Forma breaks from this tradition, but goes too far the other way, as Scenes of the Crime suffers from too much inertia, languishing in long dialogue and lackadaisical plot movement. There is a nice, clean look to the film, with good cinematography and lighting, but it's still a strange way to film a thriller, playing out almost like a casual drama with no sense of immediate urgency.
Scenes of the Crime has its moments, with good performances by Bridges and the rest of the supporting cast. In fact, for all its faults, it could have remained a worthwhile diversion if not for the contrived final scenes, and a bewildering ending that no one will find satisfying. Forma has a good eye as a director, enough to justify another shot at directing a big-time movie, but needs to work on fundamentals by crafting a plot that has a beginning, middle, climax and end. Scenes of the Crime just has a beginning and middle.
© 2003 Vince Leo