Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Touch of Evil

There's something very weird about this movie. There's a lot of skill behind its creation, but the act of watching it is fairly off-putting and distracts from the actual plot. Orson Welles uses a lot of long takes, most obviously in its deservedly famous opening shot of over three minutes, but also just in regular dialogue scenes. A group of characters will be together discussing the case and talking over each other, and there's just no point of reference for what's going on and I found myself with no interest in deciphering who these supporting actors were or what they were talking about. Charlton Heston inexplicably plays a Mexican official with no accent whatsoever, and he's a fairly limp protagonist. Janet Leigh is his wife, and does little more than look good as she's put in peril while Heston tries to unravel what's really going on. Welles himself, significantly older and fatter than the last time I saw him, gives an interesting turn as a scummy but very effective detective, though it's not exactly the power performance I expect from him.

So it's a story about a murder. From the opening shot, we see a car get sabotaged in Mexico, cross the border, and blow up in America. So authorities from both countries get involved, and Heston and Welles butt heads over the latter's methods. He seems to plant evidence and do other nefarious things to close cases, something Heston doesn't take very kindly to. Eventually Welles becomes less ambiguous and more of a true villain, and things get a bit out of control. It's a well made and plotted movie, I just didn't find the action terribly engrossing for some reason. There are some very good scenes and dramatic moments, it just never gelled for me into a really good film. And I seriously don't get the casting. It's always weird when someone gets cast as a different ethnicity, but besides darkening his skin there is no way in which Heston actually seems Mexican, which pulls you out of the story in every scene. Oh well. Pretty good, not fantastic.

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