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Love Crime | Review

Corneau’s over-plotted office thriller is short on suspense, but not unintended laughs

The default mode of French director Alain Corneau’s final film Love Crime is a kind of cynical one-upmanship: There is no glass ceiling for how ludicrously conniving corporate dragoness Christine (Kristin Scott Thomas) and her deceptively loyal protégé Isabelle (Ludivine Sagnier) can be. Corneau and co-writer Natalie Carter desperately throw lust, betrayal and murder against the dry-erase boardroom walls, but very little of it sticks. The mechanical, over-prepared plot strains to hook the audience with its central “twist”: Why would a murderer want to frame herself? The film never convincingly provides an alternative to the obvious answer: She wouldn’t.

Christine is a ruthless and shrewd exec at a multinational corporation; she’s adept at manipulating people both professionally and personally. Isabelle is her wide-eyed, hard-working assistant with a bright future. But then stolen ideas, double-crosses, and illicit seductions set the stage for revenge, and worse. The naturally captivating Sagnier fails to make sense of an increasingly nonsensical character. Scott Thomas has fun being devious, but the one-dimensionality of the role leaves her spinning her acting wheels.

Though Corneau’s chief interest is in handling the puzzle pieces of the plot, his execution is surprisingly uninspired, even resorting to the kind of third-act b&w flashbacks that have become the tired conventions of TV cop procedurals.

Strangely, the movie fails to read as a critique of corporate culture, instead more resembling a recruitment ad: Office politics might get rough and even life-threatening, but don’t worry — it’s always sexy and exciting! The banality, tedium, and rigid groupthink that define most corporate environments are conveniently cut around and replaced with derivative soap opera excess.

Corneau fumbles with the tone throughout. Is it a dark comedy, or serious psychodrama? Edge-of-the-seat thriller, or tongue-in-cheek satire? Most disappointingly, the sexual attraction between Scott Thomas and Sagnier promises much more heat than it delivers.

If reports are true, Brian de Palma is currently developing an English-language remake of ‘Love Crime.’ This could be good news, as cinema maestro De Palma is capable of orchestrating the elemental emotions of love and hate that might elevate this story to the level of true tragedy. As is, we are left only with an unengaging contrivance.

Rating 1.5 stars

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Ryan Brown is a filmmaker and freelance writer living in Brooklyn, NY. He has an MFA in Media Arts from City College, CUNY. His short films GATE OF HEAVEN and DAUGHTER OF HOPE can be viewed here: With Antonio Tibaldi, he co-wrote the screenplay 'The Oldest Man Alive,' which was selected for the "Emerging Narrative" section of IFP's 2012 Independent Film Week. Top Films From Contemporary Film Auteurs: Almodóvar (Live Flesh), Assayas (Cold Water), Bellochio (Fists in the Pocket), Breillat (Fat Girl), Coen Bros. (Burn After Reading), Demme (Something Wild), Denis (Friday Night), Herzog (The Wild Blue Yonder), Leigh (Another Year), Skolimowski (Four Nights with Anna), Zulawski (She-Shaman)

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