DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
WISDOM OF CROCODILES, THE (director: Po-Chih Leong; screenwriter: Paul Hoffman; cinematographer: Oliver Curtis; editor: Robin Sales; cast: Jude Law (Steven Grslcz), Elina Löwensohn (Anne Levels), Timothy Spall (Inspector Healey), Kerry Fox (Maria Vaughan), Jack Davenport (Sergeant Roche), Colin Salmon (Martin), Ashley Artus (Gang Leader); Runtime: 99; Miramax Films; 1998-UK)

 
"A chic modern vampire tale."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A chic modern vampire tale that is visually pleasing in its presentation but its scattered storyline seemed anemic. It wavers between a love and horror story. It also offers a facile philosophy tract on good and evil (the Chinese director studied philosophy in England), as the director takes a stab at making this film into a religious fable about finding the truth. The serial killer vampire at one point says, there's something about goodness that brings out evil. That I take to be the film's heavy statement. It comes between the vampire's long stares, heavy breathing sounds, and gushy looks at his women vics before he sates himself on their blood.

It was a strange and stylishly modern vampire tale that is set in London, that tried to be ever so cute and succeeded mostly in being enigmatic and weirdly captivating as both a thriller and a romance story. Steven Grslcz (Jude Law), his last name being a Bulgarian one, is a vampire posing as a medical researcher and a portrait artist (he can draw with both hands simultaneously) while trying to find the perfect mate. He only seeks vics who fall in love with him, as he states all their emotions are stored in their blood. Their blood samples are meticulously labeled, after he does his thing on them.

The film opens with Steven's last date dead because of a car accident, as her wrecked car is suspended in the treetops. Steven next saves Maria Vaughan (Kerry Fox) from jumping onto the tracks on the Underground and gives her his business card with his home phone number (his pick up method of choice), and when she calls he brings her to his fancy bachelor pad and does his vampire thing on her. Then cleans the blood-splattered wall of his bedroom, wraps her body in a sheet, and drives far away to dump it out at sea.

Steven writes in his diary after her death--disappointment. After the one in the car wreck, he wrote--despair. When Maria's body turns up in a fisherman's net, he calls the police but lies to them. He mentions that he went out with her, but then broke up with her when she asked him to marry. The police, Inspector Healey (Spall) and Sergeant Roche (Davenport), make him a prime suspect.

When Inspector Healey follows him and is attacked in the Underground by a gang of vicious muggers, he's saved by Steven. This doesn't stop the inspector from trying to get evidence against his most cooperative suspect. The relationship between the cop and the suspect was grounded in reality and had the only dialogue in the film that wasn't risible.

In the meantime Steven has met an attractive structural engineer who suffers from asthma, Anne Levels (Elina Löwensohn), and she finds him exotic and mysterious but plays hard to get. Their love blossoms after he saves her from being raped by the teddy boy looking gang leader of the muggers.

Their perfect love is interrupted by some ridiculous dialogue, especially the one about the theory of three-brains. Steven confides to Anne that everyone has three brains: a human, a horse and a crocodile. The film isn't good when it comes to following the script, it seems pleasing only because of the visually chilling atmosphere.

The incredulous ending indicates that the film had run out of the few ideas it had and resorted to making Law act like a yuppie serial killer who chases his vic across a roof and offers her some kind of hope for eternal love. This is the kind of delicate horror film with artsy pretensions that has Law tell the pale looking Löwensohn, that "he needs the love that is in her blood." There were too many lines like that, as it seemed to me that it wished it could be more campy yet it foolishly took itself to be a serious drama. There was something comical in its blood that it couldn't quite get out of its bloodstream. It also turns out that Law isn't even a vampire, just a guy with a mysterious medical condition. He lacks a specific component in his blood without which he will die. That doesn't give him long to live, as he needs the blood of young women who love him to sustain him. It is only when their blood is at the height of passion that it crystallizes. Unfortunately for his vics, the price they pay for loving him is their death.

A good premise does not necessarily lead to a good script, and that's what does this hazy puzzler in: the beautiful looking film just doesn't make sense and can't be explained away by such weak attempts at philosophizing.

REVIEWED ON 9/26/2001     GRADE: C +

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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