Picks and Pans Review: The Adjuster

updated 07/06/1992 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/06/1992 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Elias Koteas, Arsinée Khanjian

Your friendly insurance man could take lessons from the protagonist of Canadian Atom Egoyan's mischievous black comedy. Koteas (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) is an insurance adjuster who gives abundant, caring service to the victims of fires and other policy-covered disasters. On the spot only slightly later than the fire trucks, he books dazed clients into motels, dries their tears, leads them through the thicket of itemizations and deductions—and takes them to bed. "You might not feel it," he deadpans, "but you're in a state of shock." Elliptically told, The Adjuster cuts from scenes involving Koteas—one hilarious shot has him in the throes of passion with a beautiful client, all the while stressing the importance of a detailed claims list—to his enigmatic wife, Khanjian (Passing Through), a government censor, to a rich, quirky couple with equally rich, quirky fantasies. Only gradually does it become clear how all the characters and disparate pieces fit together. If there are some jarring shifts in tone and some unrewarding wordplay, and if ultimately The Adjuster is a triumph of style over substance, it's a triumph with a low deductible. (R)

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