Review: Secret in Their Eyes
PLOT: A special investigator (Chiwetel Ejiofor) spends twelve years investigating the murder of his partner's (Julia Roberts) daughter while struggling with unrequited feelings for his boss (Nicole Kidman).
REVIEW: Hollywood never seems to tire of remakes. For every THE DEPARTED there's a whole bunch of bad ones like Spike Lee's OLDBOY and now Billy Ray's SECRET IN THEIR EYES. The original took home a well-deserved “best foreign film” Oscar a few years ago, but whatever style and substance Juan José Campanella's movie had is utterly absent from this atrocious new take on the material. Transferring the Peron-era Argentinian setting of the original to post-9/11 L.A might not have been a bad idea if only Ray approached the film with any kind of originality at all. Instead, this plays out like a really bad episode of Homeland, and is sure make a quick exit at theaters nationwide.
That's a shame as there's a lot of talent here. Chiwetel Ejiofor is the real-deal as a leading man, but his intensity is wasted in a by-the-numbers part. His dogged investigator is a far-cry from the more sophisticated, cerebral one played by Argentinian superstar Ricardo Darin in the original. Instead, Ejifor's FBI agent must be the worst on-screen cop in years, with him freely punching-out suspects and at one point even ludicrously strangling a colleague who he's convinced is holding-out on him. It's almost hysterical how bad he is.
Nicole Kidman, as the object of his undying devotion, doesn't fare any better. She's supposed to be a sophisticated D.A but all she does is pout and make eyes at Ejiofor while letting him break whatever rules he wants in the investigation. Kidman's a puzzling actress in that sometimes she's so good (RABBIT HOLE) but here's she's incredibly stiff and un-engaged.
Of all of them, Julia Roberts comes off the best, maybe due to the fact that she's the only one who didn't have an equivalent part in the original. Outside of the setting, the big twist is that instead of an anonymous girl, the victim here is Roberts' teenage daughter, which is an intriguing twist but one that doesn't pay off outside of one admittedly powerful scene where she discovers her daughter's corpse.
One really confusing thing about Ray's film is the way it crisscrossed between the eras, with none of the leads looking like they've aged at all over the twelve years – maybe partly due to their vanity. Ejiofor has some salt and pepper in his temples while Roberts simply avoids make-up to show she's grieving. Kidman looks exactly the same except in the scenes where she's young, she wears her hair in a ponytail. At times I was unsure if I was watching a present-day segment or a flashback, which is inconvenient for a thriller.
Ray does try to ape some of the more famous scenes from the original, with the helicopter shot of the soccer stadium replaced here by a similar shot of a baseball stadium. He didn't really need to bother with this as the rest of the film departs from the original in such goofy ways it's a prime example of how badly mangled a movie like the original can end up after going through the Hollywood machine.
While in some ways it's fascinating to see how yet another remake could go so badly awry, considering all the good actors involved, this messy film is more depressing than anything as it's a waste of major resources. Hollywood seems to have forgotten how to make good, classy thrillers that aren't based on pre-existing material, and nowhere is that more evident than here.
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