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MGM Studios DVD presents

Malice (1993)

"You ask me if I have a God complex. Let me tell you something: I am God."- Dr. Jed Hill (Alec Baldwin)

Stars: Nicole Kidman, Alec Baldwin, Bill Pullman
Other Stars: Gwyneth Paltrow, Anne Bancroft
Director: Harold Becker

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: R for (violence, language, sexual situations, nudity)
Run Time: 01h:47m:00s
Release Date: 2000-11-21
Genre: suspense thriller

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ C+BB+ D


DVD Review

Some movies just don't know when to stop. They keep throwing red herrings and plot twists and shocks at you in an attempt to numb you and draw your attention away from plot holes big enough to fit Rosie O'Donnell through. Malice is just such a film. It packs so many suspense elements into its running time that, by the end, the film sort of collapses under its own weight. Still, good acting and direction and some nice dialogue help make up for any story problems present.

Dr. Jed Hill (Alec Baldwin) has just taken a position as head surgeon of the hospital in a small college town. He soon discovers that the dean of the local college, Andy Safian (Bill Pullman), was an old schoolmate of his. Before long, he is staying with Andy and his wife, Tracy (Nicole Kidman), bringing home girls and basically boozing it up (whenever he isn't performing life-saving surgery, that it). Soon, however, Tracy begins to have stomach cramps that hint at serious medical problems; a rapist attacks women at Andy's school; Andy is targeted as a suspect. Since this is a movie, of course, everything ties together just so, and the mastermind behind the plots and intrigue may just surprise you. Well, that's the hope of the director, anyway.

For the most part, Malice is entertaining, but it goes way over the top in an attempt to create a Hitchkockian thriller. Too many elements are present only to add suspense or atmosphere and in the end the film feels a bit overlong. The main plot was interesting enough, so why did the writers feel the need to tack on the rapist subplot? Atmosphere? I mean, the main point of that situation could have been resolved much more quickly (and easily) without harming the overall narrative flow. In the end, Malice tries too hard to outthink the audience and instead plots itself right into a corner.

But all is not lost! The acting is rather good, and the cast could be called star-studded. Bill Pullman is actually pretty good (as opposed to his usual pretty bland). Alec Baldwin hams it up, and plays the part of the arrogant surgeon to a T. His "god complex" speech is the best thing about this movie. Nicole Kidman crawls out from under the shadow of her superstar husband and provides some entertaining and layered work. Anne Bancroft has a small but vital role that injects a bit of black humor into the works, and Gwyneth Paltrow has a brief cameo as a college student (I guess nobody becomes a headliner overnight).

The direction and cinematography raise the level of the material a bit. Director Harold Becker had some experience in the genre (1989's Sea of Love) and he uses unconventional angles, camera tricks, a slow reveals to heighten tension. Director of Photography Gordon Willis (who worked on The Godfather) adds some style to the works with his stylish compositions and lighting. The score by Jerry Goldsmith is nothing special, but it is very atmospheric and appropriate.

Malice was co-written by Aaron Sorkin, best known now for his TV work on The West Wing and Sports Night; here and there a bit of his acerbic wit creeps through. He has a great ear for dialogue, and almost makes the plot seem plausible (almost). Malice reminds me most of the recent thriller What Lies Beneath as both succeed in providing two hours of jumps and scares, but little real substance. The highly professional work in front of and behind the camera saves the film, and there are enough twists and turns (however improbable) to make it well worth a viewing.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

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 One Two
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen 1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes no
Anamorphicyes no

Image Transfer Review: Critics blast MGM all the time for not committing to anamorphic transfers across the board, so they'll be happy to know that this transfer is indeed enhanced for widescreen TVs. That being said, there are still some problem areas. Black level is solid and I noticed no artifacts or edge-enhancement, but overall the image is a bit soft and there is an awful lot of visible film grain. The print itself was only in fair condition, with scratches and pops appearing throughout. Colors seem muted, but I think that was intentional. Still, with all the night scenes in this film, black level is the most important aspect, and it is spot-on. A full frame transfer is offered on the other side of the disc for those who are interested in such things.

Image Transfer Grade: B

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: The sound transfer is pretty good, and it adds a bit to the suspense of many scenes. Dialogue is always crisp and clear with no audible hiss. Most of the action is in the front soundstage, but the score uses the surrounds well, as do some ambient sound effects. Nothing amazing here, but it serves the film well and adds to the suspense.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+ 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in Spanish, French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Alpha
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Malice is part of the MGM $19.99 budget line of DVDs, which means there is nothing here but the trailer and French and Spanish subtitles (only English captions are provided). Not even one of those little collectible booklets! Hey, MGM, when we kidded you about those, we didn't mean take them away! Still, for the price, a trailer and a good transfer are extras enough for me.

Extras Grade: D

Final Comments

Malice is a good example of what I call a "bubble-gum thriller." It's well directed, well acted, suspenseful, and entertaining - as long as you don't think about it too much. If you can ignore plot holes and inexplicable twists, you'll enjoy Malice. I certainly did while it was on. Just try not to think about it later - why not concentrate on the fine job MGM has done with the DVD? Or re-watch the Nicole Kidman or Alec Baldwin nude scenes (depending on your sexual preference). You know, whatever blows your hair back.

Joel Cunningham 2000-11-15