Fallen Angels

The recent revival in noir themes in the movies -- the best and worst examples being L.A. Confidential and Palmetto, respectively -- is understandable. For a filmmaker noir provides a universe evocative and ready-made; it also gives him or her a chance to range up and down the social register, from the glittering aeries of the moneyed class to the sleaze pits of the lower reaches.

Benton in Twilight is trying for that old Raymond Chandler-esque sad song: the shining knight who alone is without corruption in a corrupt world. But he hasn't delineated that world for us; it's just a haze of tired gambits. Newman's Harry Ross is the romantic cynic as urban hero, but Benton is caught up in a more pungent predicament: He's a cynical filmmaker who dresses up his pulp existentialism with brand-name actors and expects us to swoon. Snooze is more like it.

Directed by Robert Benton. Screenplay by Benton and Richard Russo. Starring Paul Newman, Gene Hackman, Susan Sarandon, James Garner, Stockard Channing, and Reese Witherspoon.

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