In The Cut

Professionally bland 'one woman's struggle' tale that's more of a style clash mish mash than a top class award bash.

Released in 2003, certified UK-18. Reviewed on 21 Nov 2003 by Scott Morris
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Meg Ryan is apparently tired of being seen as the effervescent, bubbly blonde of a billion romance films and fancies a bit of an image change. She wants to sexy. Don't we all, love. Not all of us can take the avenue Ryan chooses, that of starring in a tepid and messy erotic thriller that would really be more at home filling late night schedules on cut rate television channels. For that we should be eternally grateful.

Frannie Thorstin sounds like a poor double entendre, but it's actually the name Meg's character. An English teacher, she rather strangely meets one of her high school students in a bar. Displaying a worrying inability to follow directions a voyage to the toilet inadvertently winds up in a stockroom whereupon she lurks in the shadows watching a shadowy figure receiving shadowy fellatio (Kids, ask your parents today!). This is remarkable not only for its inexplicable randomness but also one of the few times an engorged phallus has slipped through the hole in the BBFC's net, thrusting its way onto the screen and penetrating your eyeballs.

In unrelated news, Frannie meets with her hard-drinkin' lovelorn sister Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh) for general bitching sessions about how unsuccessful Pauline's love life is and how non-existent Frannie's is, with the exception of dodging her intense and mildly disturbed ex John (Kevin Bacon). This Coronation Street level family drama is given an extra dimension when Detective Malloy (Mark Ruffalo) shows up canvassing for information on a grizzly murder. After a flaky start the two embark on a hot 'n' sweaty passion filled affair.

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Or no doubt that's what was intended. The single best description of it would be tawdry, a grotty minded schoolboy's understanding of erotica that wants to fall into a hardcore porn groove but is barely restrained by some bound of social acceptability. From Ruffalo's aggressively foul mouthed dirty talk to Ryan's nipple exposing sex scenes, it goes for a near gritty approach similar to Young Adam and fails as pitifully as it did.

Having met with little success so far, the story takes a deeper turn into serial killer territory as the frequency and gruesomeness of the killings increases. Frannie's relationship with Ruffalo drags her into this unsavoury world and she takes her sister along for the ride, with predictably tragic results. It's an effective whodunnit I suppose, because for the majority of the runtime you won't have a clue whodunnit. That this is because no clues are shown and it isn't even an important part of the plot are details we shall lightly skip over.

In The Cut, the significance of the title I have yet to discover, is a movie filled with damaged, incomplete characters doing their best to survive in an indifferent world. In its own little bleak way it approaches realism at times, although pounds to pennies realism was not the goal striven for here. What was striven for is another of those things I've yet to discover. It isn't a particularly good family drama, it's an awful erotica / porn film, it's an incomplete character study, and it's a hurried and unsatisfying multiple murder mystery. It's all of these things and none of them, a blend that leaves an insignificant taste.

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It's not entirely without merit. Production values are of a high standard throughout. Ryan gives one of her best performances, and none of the other major characters are too shabby either. Kevin Bacon puts in another good performance and when taken along side Mystic River it's enough to take him off my talentless idiot list. The final scene has a strange Lynchian nightmare feel to it that's oddly effective.

The sparks of light are too few and too far between to make much difference. It tries to marry a few disparate genres and it fails, none of them individually being strong enough to be carry the film and the combination being uninspired and at best merely watchable. By sheer dint of effort and talent of the actors involve it manages to occasionally give the illusion of being something greater than it sets out to be, but like all illusions once figured out it ceases to be impressive.

Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 2/5 TippyMarks.

Jane Campion
Cast list:
Meg Ryan (Frannie Thorstin)
Mark Ruffalo (Detective Malloy)
Jennifer Jason Leigh (Pauline)
Nick Damici (Detective Rodriguez)
Sharrieff Pugh (Cornelius Webb)