Original Sin (Unrated)

Original Sin (Unrated) was designed to emulate the many twists and turns found in a Hitchcock thriller but it lacks the imagination required to hold the interest of the viewer

If you check out a lexicon for words in the Bible you will find that the word for sin in Hebrew, chata or Greek, hamartia, both literally mean ‘to miss the mark’. This is a very appropriate use of the term when reviewing the film Original Sin. It had potential but it just missed the mark. As far as the other word in the title goes, Original, that also misses the mark. Truffant’s, ‘The Mississippi Mermaid’, was the basis of Original Sin. You might wish to see the true potential of the story check out that one.

Original Sin was designed to emulate the many twists and turns found in a Hitchcock thriller but it lacks the imagination required to hold the interest of the viewer. The story follows Luis Durand (Antonio Banderas), a rich owner of a Cuban coffee plantation. He is so busy that he can not find the time to meet and woo a wife so he sends for a mail order bride from the US. He has a picture of the girl that shows her to be less than beautiful. When he goes to meet his newly purchased wife at the docks he finds that she lied with the picture and his wife is to be Julia Russell (Angelina Jolie). With such a basis of honesty you know that this relationship would go far! They marry and soon he makes arrangements for her to get cash from his personal account whenever she needs to. Big mistake. She cleans him out and takes off. He follows her with the help of a private detective hired by the family of the now missing real Julia. He finds her, is still in lust, er love with her, and sweeps her away to run from the authorities.

The plot seems to be always trying to throw something new at the audience but the twists are familiar to any fan of the genre. The producers seemed to know this since they sprinkled numerous scenes of Jolie and Banderas in bed, in the bath etc. The characters lack a realistic motivation for their actions. Sure lust is a powerful reason for less than rationale actions but it cannot hold together a movie. Original Sin spends too much time on the plot twists without considering the reasons behind the actions of the characters. When you have a complex story line you have to give the viewers something to hold on to, a basis for reality that permits a thread of believability. This is woefully lacking here.

The cast of Original Sin is proven as having considerable acting ability. Ms Jolie was just off of her Oscar win for ‘Girl Interrupted’, Banderas is known as a real box office draw. Here, Jolie manages to hold her character of the duplicitous Julia together. She shows both a passionate and devious side to her character. What fails in her performance is the reason why she stays with her ersatz husband. If the story were clear that she was always in it for the money, Original Sin would have come off better. As it is there is the possibility that she loves him introduced. This just complicates an already overly developed plot. The audience could have used a few constants to hold on to. Banderas seems to float aimlessly through the story. While this could have worked it is ambiguous in the light of the juxtaposed Latin macho ethic. There is no clear-cut direction for his character. A man this successful would be obsessed with getting his betraying wife back but to just forget his business interests again needed more explanation. When you give so little for the actors to work with even the best actors have a difficult time making it work. The ancillary cast is well done but there are really no characters that the audience can identify with or even remotely care about.

The director of Original Sin is Michael Cristofer. His first two films Gia (also with Ms Jolie) and Body Shots, demonstrate that this man has great talent. Both of those films tackled difficult subjects in an honest and interesting manner. Here the set design, framing, lighting and camera work are beautiful. From the first shot, a close up of Jolie’s pouty lips, to the many shots of fascinating sets, the craftsmanship of Cristofer shows through. He also shares the writing credit for this film. This is what disappointed me. His writing of Gia, and ‘The Witches of Eastwick’ was incredible. He seems to have fallen in the disarray he was victim to with his treatment of ‘Bonfires of the Vanities’. As with the actors the story holds back his talent. The use of sound was done well. The Latin inspired soundtrack pumps through the speakers. There is a difficulty in the flow of the film. It comes across as disjointed and broken into distinct segments.

Too bad Original Sin is not up to the standards set by the DVD itself. The disc is very good. There is a better than average commentary by the director. There is a music video by Gloria Estefan and animated photo gallery. Original Sin presented is the unrated version. There is a few minutes extra of the intense sex scenes between the leads. The audio is presented in Dolby 5.1. I found the soundtrack to have an almost overwhelming bass that (maybe thankfully) drowns out the dialogue. The use of the rear speakers is better than average and used for the soundtrack and ambient sounds in Original Sin. You do get the feeling of being in the picture. Even the other language tracks are in full 5.1 sound. The video is a beautifully mastered anamorphic 2.35:1. Original Sin misses the mark by a rather wide margin.

Review by Doug MacLean of hometheaterinfo.com

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