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MGM Studios DVD presents
Original Sin (unrated) (2001)

"Say it, say that you love me! You better make me believe it because your life depends on it."
- Louis (Antonio Banderas)

Review By: Kevin Clemons   
Published: March 25, 2002

Stars: Angelina Jolie, Antonio Banderas
Other Stars: Thomas Jane, Jack Thompson
Director: Michael Cristofer

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for nudity, violence, language
Run Time: 01h:58m:38s
Release Date: March 26, 2002
UPC: 027616872302
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ D+B+B B-

DVD Review

Several years ago I read in a magazine (the title of which inconveniently escapes me) of a survey concerning filmgoers about the content and potential enjoyment of explicit sex in mainstream cinema. The study was quite brilliant in its construction. Young men and women between the ages of eighteen and thirty would watch films like Basic Instinct and Color of Night with the explicit scenes removed; days later, they watched the same film with the sex scenes intact. The study found that opinions held by those viewers was greatly improved after watching the version that included the explicit material, thus further proving the dumbing down of America—in my opinion.

I only bring this up because while viewing Original Sin I found myself thinking that it wouldn't work without the sexual content; actually, it still fails, even intact. This is the sort of film that revels so much in its own melodrama that it is truly a shameful waste of a talented actress (Jolie) and the original concept by way of famed noir novelist, Cornell Woolrich.

As Original Sin opens, the time is 1900 Havana, and Julia Russell (Jolie) recalls the story and situations that landed her in this place where she awaits her death the following morning. Her story begins in with a financially successful merchant (Banderas) who is in the process of choosing a wife. He begins a correspondence with a woman from America and quickly brings her to Havana, where she undoubtedly meets his strict qualifications, which are, in his words, "Not meant to be beautiful. She is meant to be kind, true and young enough to bear children.". Soon Julia is his wife and they fall in love, enough so that Louis grants her full access to his finances. Soon, though, Julia disappears with his money and Louis is hell-bent on revenge, even if it means having to kill her.

While it may seem as though I have condensed the film in a nutshell, all of what is written above actually takes place in just the opening thirty minutes. The remainder is filled with double-crosses and has a false ending as well as a twist that is neither shocking nor daring. At times it seems as though the film keeps throwing these shockers out just to check the audience's interest and keep us guessing. However, what sort of guessing can there be, when we know from the outset just what is happening? Director Michael Cristofer attempts to ratchet the proceedings up a notch by employing sex scenes that look like nothing more than the sort of uninteresting softcore pornography found in countless episodes of Red Shoe Diaries. Put simply, this is not eroticism, it is boredom.

The novel Waltz Into Darkness was originally made as La Sirčne du Mississippi (a.k.a The Siren Of The Mississippi) by legendary French filmmaker François Truffaut, which generated great suspense in its story. This update, Original Sin, proves to be the opposite of Truffaut's film, in that there is not one moment of tension in the entire screenplay. Cristofer wants to build an intricate film noir mixed with the sultry side of love, but in fact, he makes a laughable picture that could easily have been done better. What could have been heart-pounding suspense or even well made eroticism ala Last Tango In Paris is nothing more than soft core B-movie garbage.

Cristofer's work here suffers from the same problems that plagued his last film, Body Shots—a picture that I will go to my death bed proclaiming my hatred for—in that his characters are never fully developed. In the case of the leading characters, their motives are never clear enough for the audience to get a cohesive idea of what they want. The dialogue is also of poor quality, with one line about a certain part of the mail anatomy being "tickled" inducing more unintentional groan and laughter than perhaps any other line in film history.

If there were a positive aspect to the film it would undoubtedly rest with Angelina Jolie, whose beauty is perhaps one of the great wonders of the world, does a fine job as Julie and makes more than one scene tolerable just by her presence. Banderas does not fair as well, but his performance is passable for the most part. As he spends nearly every scene brooding his way through the muddled plot, there is a certain intensity in his work here that is just beneath the surface. In supporting roles, Thomas Jane and Jack Thompson are hilariously over-the-top in performances that are among the worst of 2001.

At one point in Original Sin someone proclaims an opera to be "cheap melodrama" and nothing more. While viewing the film with a friend I could have sworn we both at some point said the same thing.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: D+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio this anamorphic transfer for Original Sin does justice to the beautiful cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto. From the outset, sharpness and detail are exceptionally good, with the opening scenes in Havana looking crisp and almost film-like. At the outset of chapter 3 we are treated to wide-angle shots of the countryside and coffee plantations, which look amazing. Colors are perfect, with the muted browns and tans looking especially nice. Black levels and shadow detail are also impressive with very little grain. This is a very nice-looking transfer, though some edge enhancement is noticeable, but it is never enough to worry about.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English, French, Spanish, and Portugueseyes

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 track for Original Sin is perhaps better than one might expect. The ambiance of the streets comes through beautifully in several scenes, while the score is almost always present in the surround speakers. Dialogue is crisp and clear throughout and the .1 LFE channel has some nice moments of tight bass. Overall, this is not a great sound mix but better than I had expected, given the subject of the film.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portugeuse with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Hart's War
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Michael Cristofer
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Animated photo gallery
  2. "You Can't Walk Away From Love" music video by Gloria Estefan
Extras Review: While the most notable special feature is perhaps the fact that the film is presented in its unrated state, adding nearly two minutes of sexual footage, there are several other notable bonus features.

First is a screen-specific commentary by director Michael Cristofer that is something of a rarity: a track that is light-years ahead of the film in terms of quality. A more technical commentary than anything else, Cristofer is more concerned with the history and production of the film rather than explaining what is happening on screen at a particular moment. There are times where he does fall into relaying what the viewer is seeing onscreen, but for the most part he talks about his cast as well as locations and other notes of interests about production. This isn't exactly film school for beginners but it is interesting enough for those who would be able to suffer through the film just one more time.

The remainder of extra features is largely promotional, including an animated photo gallery set to the film's score and lasting nearly three minutes. A music video for You Can't Walk Away From Love by Gloria Estefan is included and while not a great song, the video is technically proficient. Finally, trailers for Original Sin and Hart's War are each offered in widescreen, with only the former getting the benefit of anamorphic enhancement.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

Unless you are an avid fan of Jolie (who isn't?), steering clear of Original Sin would be a wise move. It is trashy melodrama that ranks amongst the worst films of the past several years. The unrated DVD adds more sexuality; perhaps it should have included a bit more of a brain.


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