**1/2 (out of 5)
March 20, 2009
Clive Owen as RAY KOVAL
Julia Roberts as CLAIRE STENWICK
Tom Wilkinson as HOWARD TULLY
Paul Giamatti as RICHARD GARSIK
Directed by: Tony Gilroy
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
The last time Julia Roberts and Clive Owen teamed up, it was for the play-turned-movie “Closer.” While critics around the world adored that movie, I thought it stunk. So, I wasn’t all that excited to get the two of them together on screen.
Well, Hollywood wasn’t listening to me yet again and put Roberts and Owen together in the new heist thriller “Duplicity.” Roberts plays Claire, an ex-CIA agent who once stole from Ray, an ex-MI-6 agent. Years later, their paths cross again, and they decide to work together on a long con involving private corporations. The goal is to score $40 million, and while they seem to be in love, their suspicious nature threatens to ruin their relationship as well as the heist.
I’ll admit that the two stars have chemistry, which is more than I can say for Roberts other co-stars over the years (like Nick Nolte in “I Love Trouble” and Brad Pitt in “The Mexican”). Unfortunately, their characters aren’t as likeable as you’ve seen them before. There are so many twists and turns in the plot, I didn’t always follow if they even liked each other.
I like to call this film “Oceans Two,” even though it isn’t directed by Steve Soderbergh. (The film is actually directed by Tony Gilroy, who gave us last year’s award bait insurance flick “Michael Clayton.”) It still uses punchy filmmaking techniques and revels in its own hipness. This part was pretty fun in the movie, although it slows down a bit when we get into their romance. Unfortunately, Julia Roberts (who is just coming off having a baby) is starting to look a bit old. She’s still pretty enough, but striking out at the romantic lead is going to be increasingly difficult for her.
However, the leads of the film weren’t my favorite characters. Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti play rival CEOs in the corporate structure. They’re hilarious in the movie, and I wish there was more with them. But I guess you can’t sell a punchy, grown-up pseudo romantic comedy with those guys’ mugs on the poster.
The strength in “Duplicity” is the heist storyline, which is complicated – arguably more complicated than it needs to be. I really did appreciate the fact that the movie targeted the rather mundane world of soap manufacturers to show the cut-throat world of corporate espionage. Think of Proctor & Gamble going toe-to-toe with Johnson & Johnson in an all-out corporate war. The silliness albeit stark reality of this scenario is still somewhat fun.
The story itself is pretty complex, jumping around in time more than an episode of “Lost.” To a certain degree, this is part of the film’s charm. A good non-linear story can be engaging and interesting.
However, at times the film jumps around too much and ends up pretty confusing. Don’t zone out in the middle of the movie or you might get totally lost.
And when everything all comes together, it’s pretty unbelievable how everything fits together. In this respect, it reminds me of David Fincher’s movie “The Game,” which was cool but ultimately too far fetched because it relied on everything working out a little too perfectly.
As an “Oceans Two” without George Clooney or Brad Pitt to be seen, the movie can offer entertainment for the dating crowd.