Picks and Pans Review: Stormy Monday

updated 05/09/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/09/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

If it's cleverness of plot or depth of meaning you're after, this isn't the place to look for it. This is a film about a ruthless American real estate hustler trying to take over a small town in England, and with its third-rate gangsterism and foolish heroics, it's hardly worth taking seriously. There are, nonetheless, enough intriguing flourishes to make the movie worth, say, a short trip on a nice day. One thing in its favor is Sting, who plays a surly, supercynical jazz club owner. There's nothing glamorous in the part, and Sting plays it that way, bitter and flat, in a surprisingly effective character performance. Impressive, too, is English actor Sean Bean, 27. As a drifter who takes a job as Sting's janitor, Bean is a stolid, quietly noble sort of hunk—there's a hint of a British John Wayne in him—and he plays nicely against the edgy, flamboyant Melanie Griffith. (In another of the plot's unlikelihoods, Griffith plays an American who's working as a waitress in the English town; she's the mistress of the Yank businessman, Tommy Lee Jones, and seems to be serving as an advance party for him.) Another asset is the cinematography of Roger Deakins, who shot the similarly bleak, brooding Sid and Nancy as well as the more recent White Mischief. He creates a series of often abstract images in Sting's dingy joint and in the architecture of Newcastle, the grim northeast England town that was the main location. His photography provides as much of the film's mood as do its story and dialogue. The writer-director was Mike Figgis, a former rock musician and playwright who, to judge by this movie, learned a lot of what he knows about life from watching American gangster films of the '30s in which guys show how tough they are by cleaning their fingernails with pocketknives. (R)

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