Picks and Pans Review: The Gingerbread Man

updated 02/02/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/02/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

Kenneth Branagh, Embeth Davidtz, Daryl Hannah, Robert Duvall

Director Robert Altman does much more justice to the richly eccentric society of Savannah than Clint Eastwood did in his recent, logy Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil—and in much less time. Having said that, it's a shame that Altman didn't make Midnight rather than this noirish thriller that is heavy on atmosphere but light in logic.

Like Midnight, The Gingerbread Man is about a prominent, rich Savannahian, in this case a flashy criminal defense lawyer (Branagh) who shoots someone to death and then has differences with the authorities over the circumstances and motive. There's a mysterious woman involved, and a nasty hurricane is blowing into town fast. The hurricane is named Geraldo—you gotta love it. Unlike Midnight, Gingerbread Man is based not on a true story, but on an original tale by legal storymeister John Grisham.

Branagh, at least initially, seems to be doing a witty impression of President Clinton if Clinton had ended up as a glad-handing defense lawyer rather than a glad-handing politician. Hannah, nearly unrecognizably mousey in auburn hair and glasses, nicely underplays her role as Branagh's devoted legal partner. As the movie's femme fatale, Davidtz (Schindler's List), though good, fails to convince us that she's the kind of gal a man would kill for. (R)

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