There are plenty of elements in play to make the new film “Body of Lies” a success.
“Lies” features a dream pairing of two outstanding actors (Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe), a more than capable director (Ridley Scott) and a compelling ripped-from-the-headlines plot.
Unfortunately, the elements don’t quite come together in the fashion one would expect or hope.
DiCaprio plays Roger Ferris, a covert CIA operative working in Jordan searching for terrorists bombing civilian targets. Ferris is aided by his boss, Ed Hoffman (Crowe), who uses the latest technology to help coordinate the operative’s next moves from his office in Langley, Va.
When Ferris enlists the help of the chief of Jordanian Intelligence (Mark Strong), it leads to an uneasy alliance and a power struggle that puts Ferris’s life in danger.
“Body of Lies” is a well-made film but lacks the emotional impact required to keep its audience interested.
Perhaps “Lies” suffers from the comparison of the recent release “Traitor,” a more compelling film that covers the same material.
But that isn’t the only problem.
DiCaprio and Crowe are good together, but most of their scenes take place via phone conversation - so the onscreen chemistry lacks the sizzle that one would hope for.
William Monahan’s script also has its flaws. A subplot concerning a romance between Ferris and a Jordanian nurse (Golshifteh Farahani) seems contrived and bogs down a film that already suffers from a sluggish opening act.
There are times when the film hints at something better, but those hints are just that - almost as if the makers of “Body of Lies” are taunting their audience with what could have been.
DVD dandy of the week
This week’s dandy is “The Incredible Hulk” (B), the second film about the green superhero in the last five years that is a surprisingly effective do-over.
Edward Norton takes over in the role of Bruce Banner, a scientist seeking a cure for a unique condition that causes him to turn into a giant green monster any time he gets stressed.
After he nearly kills his longtime love, Betty Ross (Liv Tyler), Bruce resorts to a life of exile and isolation, trying to keep one step ahead of Betty’s father, Gen. Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt), who wants to harness Bruce’s power for military purposes.
As Bruce and Ross grapple with the secrets of the Hulk’s creation, they are confronted with a new threat - Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth), a soldier who morphs into a monstrous new adversary known as the Abomination.
I was probably in the minority, but I really didn’t have a problem with the 2003 Hulk film, which took a more cerebral approach where the action almost seemed secondary.
That isn’t the case with this version, directed by Louis Leterrier, who previously directed the sequel to “The Transporter.” From an early chase across roof tops in Brazil to a rousing CGI-filled monster fight in the final act, this is a film that gives action fans plenty to cheer about.
But “Hulk” has some depth as well, thanks to a really good cast and a clever script. I’ve always been a fan of Norton, and he is the perfect choice to play the tormented Banner. Hurt and Roth both look like they are having a lot of fun in their respective roles.
It’s easy to have fun when you have a script like this. Writer Zak Penn understands that this material already has a huge fan base and plays to those fans with winks and nods to the 1970s television series and the comic, all the while offering a King Kong-type twist on the relationship between Hulk and Betty.
“The Incredible Hulk” isn’t quite up to par with “Iron Man,” but it is a worthy companion piece and definitely has me anticipating the day when the two characters unite in the rumored “Avengers” movie.
“The Incredible Hulk” is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action violence, some frightening sci-fi images and brief suggestive content and will be available on DVD on Tuesday.
— When he’s not arguing out loud - and we do mean LOUD - with the contents of our editorial page, sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton can be reached by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.