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In The Cut (18)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary by director Jane Campion and producer Laurie Parker; Deleted scenes; Making of featurette; US theatrical trailer; UK Theatrical trailer.

FOR a woman to be taken seriously in Hollywood nowadays, it seems that some form of nudity is required, especially if an actress is attempting to dispense with an established image.

When Nicole Kidman shed her clothes in London’s West End, in The Blue Room, for instance, the quality roles came flooding in, culminating in an Oscar, while Halle Berry bared all, and also stole the keys to the Academy, for Monster’s Ball.

Step forward Meg Ryan, former rom-com queen and Hollywood sweetheart, who has opted for one of the most radical image makeovers possible for her latest, a sexually explicit psychological thriller which makes for riveting yet uncomfortable viewing.

Ryan stars as a lonely teacher who witnesses the prelude to a brutal murder and begins a dangerous relationship with one of the investigating police detectives (Mark Ruffalo). Yet as she opens up her heart, it seems the identity of the killer could be much closer to home than she thinks.

Based on the best-selling novel by Susanna Moore and directed by Jane Campion, In The Cut is, as one might expect, an excellent vehicle for Ryan to showcase her acting credentials.

Although previous attempts to ‘go serious’ - in movies such as When A Man Loves A Woman and Courage Under Fire - have only really hinted at what she is capable of, this is the real deal, a gritty, even dirty, urban thriller, which functions on numerous levels.

It would be a shame, therefore, if the much-publicised nudity detracts from an otherwise first-rate potboiler, for only the foolish would enter this particular experience in search of a cheap thrill.

In terms of content and style, In The Cut has to rate as one of the most consistently adult mainstream movies of the year, seldom flinching from its graphic portrayal of sex, or the aftermath of many of the crime scenes.

And while certain moments do appear a little voyeuristic (the inclusion of a fully erect penis close-up feels a little unwarranted, for instance), the overall effect is to create an overwhelming sense of fear that seldom allows the viewer to get comfortable with themselves.

This is much less an erotically-charged whodunit, than a serious look at the psychology of modern relationships, as played out against a disturbing and violent crime in a city as big as New York.

It is easy to feel lost, even hopeless, and Ryan expertly conveys the introverted tendencies of her repressed teacher, frequently appearing vulnerable and on the verge of becoming a victim.

Her relationship with Ruffalo’s frank detective is fraught with peril, frequently forcing viewers to confront some difficult issues, in between deciding whether he could really be a suspect, while her interplay with her sister (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is tenderly realised, providing a sounding board for the anxieties she so obviously feels.

Ruffalo, too, excels as the plain-talking cop, exuding screen presence and a great deal of charisma as a man whose outwardly brash demeanour belies someone who is struggling to cope with the atrocities he is forced to witness on a daily basis. If anything, the movie belongs to him.

The film is actually at its strongest when exploring the psychology of their relationship, and only really feels like a whodunit during the final stages, when the killings accelerate and the countdown to the inevitable discovery of guilt takes place.

Yet even then, Campion refuses to become overly melodramatic, refusing to compromise the impact of what has come before. It might not make for a comfortable night at the movies, but it will remain with you for some time afterwards, making In The Cut a success both for its director, and the stars, whose performances will probably rate among the finest of their careers.

It is, in a nutshell, provocative cinema at its best.

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