Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Starring Willem Dafoe, Scott Speedman, Peter Stotmare, Clea DuVall
Directed by Henry Miller
Released by IFC Films
While it has all the makings of a great film -- a strong cast, an interesting idea, some creative set pieces -- ultimately Anamorph is no more interesting than a standard episode of “CSI” or any of the other myriad cop-centric whodunits polluting our airwaves.
Dafoe stars as Stan, a detective who’s seen too much over his years on the force and is especially haunted by a string of serial murders committed by someone only known as “Uncle Eddie”. Five years ago the police shot and killed a man they suspected of being Eddie, but they were never able to get solid enough proof. Stan was promoted to detective because of it, however, though apparently he took some time off from police work because as Anamorph starts he’s teaching college kids about how to be detectives.
He’s called back into active duty when a murder is committed that, of course, has all the markings of an Uncle Eddie killing. Immediately all those ghosts from the past make themselves known anew to Stan, and his usual obsessive compulsiveness starts to get out of control, as does is drinking. Actually the first part is barely touched on, only a few short scenes showcase any kind of compulsiveness at all, but the latter is driven home any time we’re alone with Stan for more than five seconds.
The new series of killings continues, each more artistically motivated than the former, and this is where the film’s only real high points come in. As I stated at the outset, some pretty impressive set pieces were created to showcase these killings, giving the indication of a killer with as much time and resources as Jigsaw, but he's far more interested in making his final product something to admire.
It all becomes very tiresome as we’re taken, every so slowly, from one fairly interesting murder to another, each getting closer and closer to Stan. There’s always enough time in between for Stan to brood, go meet with his private art dealer (a woefully underused Stormare), or have vague conversations with a girl named Sandy (DuVall), who seems to have some strange kind of crush on him despite, or maybe because of, how unapologetically odd and tortured he is.
Oh, and the term Anamorphosis, which the film’s title is obviously a shortening of for reasons unknown, isn’t brought up until well into the final act of the film; and when it is, it does absolutely nothing to move the plot along or help us determine the identity of the killer (no, that is done quite by ridiculous chance). Actually, it’s only purpose is to give the obnoxious fellow detective (a woefully overused Speedman) a chance to have a revelation of his very own.
For features you get a whopping one deleted scene, of Stan going to stare at a painting in an art gallery where he has an uncharacteristic conversation with a student he bumps into, and a featurette called “The Making of Anamorph”, which is nothing but a glorified EPK.
The whole thing is kind of a letdown. I had been looking forward to seeing this for a while as the premise was interesting enough, but it seems the creativity behind Anamorph started and stopped with how the victims would be killed, and somehow an entire film was wrapped around it.
So unless you’re in the mood to see some great actors phone in performances, and some not-so-great actors ham it up, I would suggest you avoid Anamorph.
2 out of 5
1 out of 5
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