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Original Sin

Original Sin on DVD

The words "steamy erotic thriller" are generally a Hollywood translation for "sex and nudity in place of substance" and should rightfully inspire fear into the hearts of movie-loving weenies like us.

Original Sin has sex and nudity, but it also has a bit of substance. It was this mixture that caught us somewhat off guard.

Antonio Banderas plays Luis Vargas, a wealthy man who sends out for a bride. What he gets is Julia Russell (Angelina Jolie), a beautiful woman who looks nothing like the picture he was sent. As she puts it, she "did not want a man to love her because she owned a pretty face." But Luis has a confession as well. He did not mention he was wealthy because he "did not want a woman to love him because he owned a pretty bank account."

"Then we have something in common. We are both not to be trusted." Julia says.

Although at the time it seems appropriate, the statement is somewhat misleading. It makes us believe that Luis is just as conniving as Julia, which he of course is not.

Original Sin is very well made. Set in Cuba in the 19th century, it looks and feels exactly as you'd expect of 19th century Cuba if you weren't there (and who among us was?). Visually, the movie is great, but the story lacks the punch it needs to make it thoroughly engrossing.

There are a lot of twists and turns throughout the film, but unfortunately, we saw every one of them coming. Perhaps it's because we're particularly smart cookies, or perhaps (and more likely so) it's because we watch way too many movies. Either way, it did take away much of the enjoyment.

Banderas is great in his role, but Jolie doesn't quite fit. She has the exact look needed for the part of Julia, but she never quite seems believable. The real treat, however, is Thomas Jane, who plays Walter Downs, the detective on the trail of a murderer. He has a great presence, and it looks like the role would have been a blast to play. He's the kind of movie villain we all love to hate.

Michael Cristofer, who wrote and directed the film, is a much better director than writer. The script isn't bad, but it's far too predictable (though I imagine that's the fault of the original novelist on which the film's based, and not the screenwriter). The direction, however, is excellent.

Despite its pluses, however, Original Sin is a hard movie to recommend. The movie has a great visual style and a good film noir-esque story. And if you've always wanted to see Angelina Jolie topless, this is your opportunity; she's undoubtedly too big a star now to do it again. But we found the movie too predictable.

Much as with the DVD of Bandits, MGM decided to send us a screener of this DVD rather than distribute the actual final disc for review. That's often a recipe for disaster when you're trying to review the final product with all its extras but, fortunately, this screener was at least presented in anamorphic widescreen, unlike Bandits.

But the picture on our screener still wasn't great; it seems excessively soft in many places and bright lights seem to drown out the actors' faces at times, but we can't say if that's due to the cinematography of the screener. Other than that, however, the picture (presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen) seems fine.

The 5.1 Dolby Digital sound isn't that great either. Most of the time you don't really need to have spent all that money on surround speakers, and there are a few dramatic scenes where it would have been especially nice to have had the rear channels exploited.

The DVD is available in separate R-Rated and Unrated versions, and the unrated version includes a couple of extras.

Original Sin, from MGM Home Entertainment
116 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) 16X9 enhanced, 5.1 Dolby Digital
Starring Antonio Banderas, Angelina Jolie, Thomas Jane and Jack Thompson
Produced by Denise Di Novi, Kate Guinzburg and Carol Lees
Written for the screen and Directed by Michael Cristofer


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Updated May 13, 2006