If you must visit a video store this year, avoid absolutely the following terrible movies of 1997.

WORST OF 1997

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


Among other things, New Year's Eve is the annual cutoff for Oscar consideration, a fact that makes the winter months a grim time for movie distribution. Who wants to release a contender that will be forgotten by next January? So winter is a perfect time to catch the good independents that didn't find wide release. In the worst of cases, if you must visit a video store this year, avoid absolutely the following terrible movies of 1997:

FIRE DOWN BELOW features Steven Seagal, the wooden action toy who loves to pound the heads of his enemies on truck hoods and pool tables. With a faint halo fairly glowing around his black helmet of hair, our hero has come to save the town from a corporate tycoon who is burying toxins nearby (see title). A simple call to the DEP would save things, but Seagal must do this alone, with lines like "We have to come together as one family and fight this."

THE SAINT is Val Kilmer in a series of bad disguises and awful accents, taking on the Russians over a microchip. Our heroine, Elizabeth Shue, keeps the secret formula tucked in her bra on a post-it. She also wears kneesocks; that's how we know she's a physicist. The sum of it: a Russian leader who talks in American slang, a scar-faced dolt of a villain, much heavy breathing, and a genuinely silly hero. What's missing? Ian Fleming and James Bond.

EIGHT HEADS IN A DUFFEL BAG wins the prize for most flagrant insult to audience intelligence. Can you imagine building a comedy on eight severed heads singing in harmony? Dyan Cannon is unimaginably bad, and her colleagues are supremely uncomfortable, as they should be, in this inexcusable movie.

LOST HIGHWAY is a movie of motels, parking lots, shady guys, guns, knives, and black leather. David Lynch indulges himself in noirish visions that turn nights into hallucination. The actors, who play different versions of the same people, are uniformly bad (Bill Pullman, Patricia Arquette). When the screen isn't filled with bodies heaving in unimaginative sex, it is covered with blood-not drops, but puddles of the stuff. This movie is pretentious junk.

KISS THE GIRLS dwells on a sadist who kidnaps talented young women and imprisons them for his sexual and aesthetic pleasure in an underground slave quarters out there in the woods somewhere. Morgan Freeman is badly miscast as the forensic psychologist who tracks the villain. Aside from an intelligent performance by Ashley Judd, this movie is more horror than thriller. If you like your action to have the kick of suspense and mystery, you may well rebel at spending two hours dealing with the feral acts of an unidentified sadist.

You might turn instead to some good stories interpreted by gifted performers. Sensitive, funny, touching, they are full of respect for the audiences they are addressing: BRASSED OFF, SHALL WE DANCE, ULEE'S GOLD, THE FULL MONTY, INTIMATE RELATIONS, THE EDGE.


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 494
Studio : Various
Rating : Various
Running Time: Various


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