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The Wrong Man

(Jim McBride, USA, 1993)


 


Of all the career stories in contemporary American cinema, director Jim McBride's is surely one of the strangest. At the age of twenty-five he created the remarkable David Holzman's Diary (1968), a film that has influenced several generations of independent filmmakers. After the hip sci-fi comedy Glen and Randa (1971), McBride spent over a decade doing odd jobs in the film industry, writing scripts and driving cabs.

In the '80s, McBride (with collaborators Kit Carson and Jack Baran) finally returned to the scene with two marvellous films, the remake of Godard's Breathless (1983) and the sultry cop drama The Big Easy (1987). When Great Balls of Fire! struck out at the box office in 1989, however, McBride had to wander in the wilderness once more – this time in the television and telemovie industries.

The Wrong Man is a movie McBride made for cable television in 1993. This film (which bears no relation to Hitchcock's 1957 drama of the same title) is roughly in the erotic thriller genre, with a large dose of Polanski's Cul-de-Sac (1966) added for psychodramatic interest.

A bizarre trio (played by Kevin Anderson, Rosanna Arquette and John Lithgow) wander about Mexico by car, bus and train, engaging in various scenarios of violent retribution and sexual humiliation. A dreary sub-plot follows two dull, local cops as they trail behind picking up the clues.

There are some well-directed passages (particularly the finale), and Lithgow is terrific, but the film overall exudes a sleazy, lacklustre ambience that suggests an indifference on McBride's part towards such hokey material.

© Adrian Martin December 1994


Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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