Picks and Pans Review: V for Vendetta

updated 03/27/2006 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/27/2006 AT 01:00 AM EST

Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea, John Hurt



D is for deep, which V for Vendetta is not—though it strains mightily to be. A futuristic political thriller, the movie wants to have its action sequences and make audiences ponder the nature of terrorism and totalitarian governments. It's akin to trying to ride a speeding roller coaster while paging through Orwell's 1984.

Vendetta is set in the near future in an England ruled by a repressive regime that exploits its citizens' fears of terrorist attacks. (Don't expect V to score an A with the Bush Administration.) Evey (Portman), our heroine, comes under the sway of V (Weaving), a mysterious masked man planning to blow up Parliament.

Written by The Matrix's Andy and Larry Wachowski (based on a graphic novel by Alan Moore) and directed by James McTeigue, Vendetta's insurmountable problem is the unchanging mask (a grinning visage of 17th-century British extremist Guy Fawkes) that Weaving wears throughout. It leaves Portman—though she's impressive—with nothing to play against except a shiny plastic facade. (R)

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