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The Claim
2000 - R - 120 Mins.
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Producer: Andrew Eaton
Written By: Frank Cottrell Boyce
Starring: Wes Bentley, Milla Jovovich, Nastassja Kinski, Peter Mullan, Sarah Polley
Review by: David Trier
The film takes place in the 1800's in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Daniel Dillon (Peter Mullan) sells his wife and child to a stranger in exchange for the claim to a goldmine. Fast-forward twenty years to the same area that has now developed into a budding little town, hookers and everything. Dillon is the richest man and the town's leader. But times are a changin' and word is the railroad might be coming this way. Or it would seem by the inspection of Donald Dalglish (Wes Bentley), who works for the railway company. But in the midst of all this hub-bub and what's-its, Dillon's abandoned wife and child return. His wife, Elena (Natassja Kinski), is dying of tuberculosis (or whatever it is that makes you cough up blood); and his daughter, Hope (Sarah Polley), who doesn't know her father's identity, can't take care of her all alone. They need money, go figure. So Dillon gives them some money, but starts to feel guilty about having been a right bastard and decides to dump his perfectly nice whore girlfriend (Milla Jovovich) and remarry his wife. That's sweet. Anyway, she dies, and it turns out that the railroad can't get through that part of the mountains so everyone has to move down to the river (or something). Dillon is sad and burns down his mansion.

By all rights I really shouldn't be reviewing this movie. I didn't actually see all of it. I fell asleep a couple of times, but never for more than five minutes at any given time, so... anyway. Here's the good stuff, because there will undoubtedly be people who will think this is a good movie. The acting is pretty decent all around. Mullan, whose character makes very little sense, delivers a genuine performance. He goes easy on the overacting where there are several opportunities to ham it up, and he comes off strongly. Sarah Polley shows a good range and qualifies as one of the better young actresses in film today. She is very comfortable in her role and probably the most convincing. Natassja Kinski, who's been in over fifty movies already, is fine as the wife, but has to spend most of the film moaning. Milla Jovovich, who deserved a much bigger part, is very good, once again throwing the curve for the models-shouldn't-act postulate. Wes Bentley, who was pretty good in American Beauty, I thought, isn't very well cast here in a part for which he looks too young for and in which he sort of mumbles his way. On the other hand, there's something to be said for keeping it simple. The cinematography is good in what must have been a very difficult shoot in the freezing cold. If only the story were remotely involving, this could be a decent flick.

I found myself carefully studying the corners of the screen or looking intently at the background of a scene, desperately trying to answer a recurring question in my head that got louder and louder as the film went on - what makes them think this is interesting? The whole movie is just people complaining. It's hard to find any sympathy for the main character, who sells his family and tries to redeem himself at the last possible moment. There's no real romance for the younger characters because, aside from being a handsome guy, there's nothing really interesting about Dalglish. Aside from the occasional shouting match or gunshot, nothing substantial really happens. Although at one point, Dillon has a bunch of people drag his house (yes, the whole house with him in it) to a nicer spot for his marriage proposal. But besides the occasional, hey-that-was-neat or that-was-well-acted moment, the whole movie is one big sob story set on a powerful but slow-moving backdrop of MOUNTAINS. Sure, the acting is fine and maybe the film captures some of the despair and boredom intrinsic in 19th century American MOUNTAIN life, but does that mean it's entertaining? I recommend this movie for insomniacs - it's just as effective, but much less addictive than Valium
Movie Guru Rating
Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better. Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better.
  2 out of 5 stars

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