Volume 76, Number 15 | August 30 -September 5, 2006

Koch on film

By Ed Koch

“The Illusionist” (+)

This is a remarkably good, innovative and fascinating picture. I won’t reveal too much of the story, however, so as not to ruin your enjoyment as you watch the presentation unfold.

The film takes place in Vienna, which, with its dark cobblestone streets, looks like the London of Jack the Ripper. Eisenheim (Edward Norton) is a magician and Sophie (Jessica Biel), who is of higher birth, is to be engaged to Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell). The adolescent friendship of Eisenheim and Sophie blossoms into love but ends when her family learns of their relationship. Norton and Biel are spectacular in their roles.

Years later the two meet again. Eisenheim is now a theater sensation performing extraordinary acts of magic. On the order of the Crown Prince, Chief Inspector Uhl (Paul Giamatti) embarks on a campaign to arrest and ruin Eisenheim.

Apparitions are easily created on a movie screen. The question is are they real or are they simply tricks. Whatever they are, they are consistently fascinating. They were discussed over dinner following the show and quite different views were expressed on what really happened. See for yourself and decide.

“10th and Wolf” (-)

This Mafia movie contained enough murders, double-crossings and torture scenes to fill three more movies in the ongoing wars of organized crime. I enjoy this genre of film but, regrettably, this story is preposterous and its execution too choppy.

The story involves Tommy (James Marsden), who is in jail for having screwed up as a marine in the first Gulf war. He is the older brother of Vincent (Brad Renfro), who is mentally a little slow. The brothers are part of an organized crime family in a city resembling Pittsburgh. 

Joey (Giovanni Ribisi) is the son of a local crime family and a cousin to Tommy and Vincent. He takes over when his father is killed but is clearly not up to the job.  Reggio (Francesco Salvi), leader of a large rival gang, classically portrays an old time crime leader who speaks Italian as his language of choice. 

While in prison, Tommy is visited by an F.B.I. agent, Horvath (Brian Dennehy).  Horvath threatens to send Tommy back to prison after his release along with Vincent and Joey unless Tommy helps to collect evidence that will convict Reggio. Once released, Tommy is asked to wear a wire.   

The acting of everyone is excellent, particularly that of James Marsden. The script required a full range of emotions from him, and he was up to the job. The script, however, lost credibility when the small gang seeks to take over and two men take on dozens of Reggio’s followers. Mayhem follows and even hand grenades are used. Too bad the script went wild and wasn’t well executed. 

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