(Phillip Noyce, USA, 1993)


When it was released in cinemas, Sliver was almost unanimously described as a shocking, incoherent mess. Behind-the-scenes reports stressed the sudden, massive plot rewrites (particularly on the ending), while reviewers targeted the one-dimensional characters played by Sharon Stone and William Baldwin.

Somewhere amidst the confusion was Australian director Phillip Noyce, once honoured on his native turf for more serious, socially conscious thrillers like Heatwave (1982).

This is a high concept movie which tries hard to blend the most commercially successful elements of a number of late '80s-early '90s thrillers with an array of modern phenomena: in particular, sleek, high-rise architecture and sophisticated video surveillance. Stone moves into a sliver (apartment complex) where strange murders are occurring. Courted by swaggering novelist Tom Berenger but opting for intimacy with enigmatic Baldwin, Stone finds herself drawn into a reasonably kinky situation.

Sliver is not quite as off-the-rails as many have made out. After all, it follows the well-worn structure of virtually every previous film crafted by writer-producer Joe Eszterhas (Basic Instinct [1992], Jagged Edge [1985]): a whodunit which hysterically hurls around clues and red herrings intimating that virtually every character is the killer, until a crazy shock ending scrambles the last trace of plot logic.

Nor is the film badly directed: Noyce has a strong visual style, and the use of songs in the sound design is particularly effective.

It isn't, finally, much of a movie. As cold and calculated as the many hi-tech surfaces it displays, it resorts, near the end, to a particularly offensive sub-plot involving child abuse. But, as posey sex thrillers go, Sliver clicks into place more efficiently than many in this genre.

MORE Noyce: Blind Fury, Echoes of Paradise, Rabbit-Proof Fence, The Saint

© Adrian Martin December 1993

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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