Sunday, January 14, 2007

Movie Review: The Beach 3 Stars

When a movie begins in Bangkok, chances are something nutso is about to happen. And The Beach is full of all things nutso. Bizarre blood rituals, suicidal Scotsmen, monsoons, gun-toting marijuana farmers, cliff-diving, Mandingo, spear-fishing Swedes, muslin-silhouetted sex, raging jealousies, shark attacks, descents into madness, bug-eating, homicide, Russian roulette, French vixens prancing around in bikinis and plenty of overt references to Lord of the Flies and Apocalypse Now. (Is Leo the possessor of the conch shell? The horror. The horror.)

Unfortunately, at those critical junctures when the something should have gone nutso-er, it just went away.

Leo plays Richard, a restless American traveler desperately seeking an atypical tourist experience. Checking into a Bangkok flophouse, Richard meets the beautiful and saucy Francoise (Virginie Ledoyen) and her boyfriend Etienne (Guillaume Canet), whose amorous escapades in the flophouse next door are driving Richard batty. But not as batty as Daffy (Robert Carlyle), the Thai-stick-smoking Scotsman, who spins the yarn of a mythological island paradise off the coast of Thailand.

Daffy leaves Richard a map before checking out, and Richard convinces Francoise and Etienne to join him on his journey. They travel by train, by boat and, finally, by swimming two kilometers in shark-infested waters, to the island which they find inhabited by surly cannabis farmers and a community of pleasure-seekers led by the enigmatic hedonist, Sal (Tilda Swinton). Richard’s indiscretions--not the least of which is his dangerous flirtation with Francoise--rain a plague of hassles down upon the kibbutz, which begins to unravel at the seams while Richard himself descends into the mouth of madness, mayhem and murder.

I know… It sounds like something nutso. And while The Beach is never bad, it’s never the right gradation of something nutso. It’s like Xanax crazy versus electroshock crazy. The Beach has everything going for it, but, unfortunately, everything isn’t nearly enough.

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