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Affliction
cast: Nick Nolte, Sissy Spacek, James Coburn, Willem Dafoe, and Mary Beth Hurt

director: Paul Schrader

109 minutes (15) 1997
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Prism Leisure DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 3/10
reviewed by Martin Drury
A small town cop is called out to investigate a hunting death. Slowly, the evidence unravels but so does the mind of the man charged with investigating the case. Soon, little stands between the cop and madness but an overwhelming sense of duty and a longing to follow in his father's footsteps. The film is adapted from a Russell Banks novel. Apparently. He's a famous writer. Apparently. Nick Nolte was once a film star. Apparently. Here, he's little more than a bit player in a film that tests both your patience and your sanity. The first thing you should be told about this new vanilla DVD release of the film is that it doesn't play at all on some portable DVD players. The disc is unrecognisable and the machine refuses to play the film. Perhaps the machine has sensed the poor quality of the movie you're trying to insert in it? What was once new and novel quickly becomes yesterday's news and a film about supposedly misunderstood and complex people doing despicable things simply treads over already well-worn ground.

You're asked to view the film's characters are malcontents and social misfits. You're asked to hate the characters and to send them all to hell. As such, you find it difficult to empathise with the characters, sympathise with their situation and ultimately you don't care if they are struggling to meet their parent's approval and expectations or if they can solve a complex murder in time to save even more lives. Nick Nolte drinks. And he drinks. And he sits. And he drinks whilst he's sitting. That's the end of the film, the final portrait, the remainder shot. Almost as if the film realised halfway through that it had nowhere to go and could only fall flat on its face and disperse through the celluloid into oblivion. Wade Whitehouse, the most unlikely named evil villain in the history of cinema, is - as the audience are told at the end of the film - still out there. He's ready to strike at any moment and your nightmares are meant to be full of visions of him picking up your scent and following you home.

But you're not scared of Wade Whitehouse. Because you're far too busy laughing at his name. A voice over tells us all that child abuse is as inevitable as it is tragic. Child abuse has never been inevitable. Sometimes, child abuse can be tragic but it's never been tragic and inevitable. The film wraps itself up in confusion and all the viewer receives in return for his money is a headache. Affliction is cold tea on celluloid and leaves its audience feeling uninspired and incensed at loosing so many precious minutes from their day. Affliction is mutton dressed as lamb, a desperate attempt to create a moving and dramatic film about approval, abuse and power in the hands of the criminally minded. The attempt fails. Affliction is muddled in place of moving and dull instead of dramatic. Take your time, attention and money somewhere else.
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