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HEAVEN (1999)

Robert Marling (Martin Donovan) is an architect whose design for life has gone seriously awry: his wife Jennifer (Joanna Going) has left him; his only employer, Stanner, (Richard Schiff) is a psycho. Stanner owns a grim niterie whose interior Robert is supposed to be renovating - gambling and drinking permitted. Enter Stanner's muse, Heaven, (Danny Edwards) a transvestite dancer with the gift of second sight - which is how Stanner wins so often at the card table. Robert inadvertently rescues Heaven from a choice pair of slimeballs, so she casts him in the role of her saviour, transfers her visionary allegiance from Stanner - who quickly works out where his luck has gone. Meantime, while enlisting a top lawyer to assist her in taking Robert to the cleaners, Jennifer is bonking Dr Melrose (Patrick Malahide) the evil shrink who also counsels Heaven and Robert. One way or another things go from worse to even worse before they even begin to look like getting better.

"Richard Schiff has the plum role - and chomps it for all it's worth as the chilling chuckling psycho, Stanner. Here is a man whose moral values could be placed on a pin head with room to spare. Heaven, on the other hand, is a fallen angel and movingly portrayed by the statuesquely gorgeous Edwards. Martin Donovan looks yummy, battered and bewildered and is called upon to do little else, which is fine. Aside from being the most astonishingly corrupt and clumsy shrink in the couch business, Dr Melrose is also a caricature - and that goes for quite a lot of this darkly racy movie. The bouncers flex their pecs, the sleazeballs leave trails of slime, the hookers flash their Sharon Stones and so it goes. Writer/director Scott Reynolds is but the latest in a line of New Zealand filmmakers turning the long white land of sheep and green pastures on its grimy urban head in this, only his second, feature. It is occasionally clunky and comical in unintended places, but overall the pace grips and the grip doesn't slacken. Good for a socko Friday night out but the squeamish might squirm."
Diana Simmonds

"Remember that line from The Eagles song Hotel California "this could be heaven and this could be hell". Hell is exactly what you get if you pay a visit to this Heaven, a stupendously awful thriller which has arrived late in the day to carry off my award for worst film of the year. I watched in envy as two of Australia's better known critics walked out of the preview screening of this stinker. You'd think that any film with Martin Donovan couldn't be all bad but this New Zealand-made Miramax production will have Hal Hartley's leading man scuttling back to the safety of the US indie scene quicker than you can say "why are there so many different accents in this film and none of them are explained". It seems a foggy cumulus from the land of the long white cloud passed across the eyes of Hal Hartley's leading man, marring his better judgement. This is a nasty film which attempts to rise above itself by imposing a fractured, time-travelling editing style, presumably inspired by the visions of Heaven who's yet another in the long line of "tortured trannies" to appear on screen. Performances are as wooden as the script, to the point I wanted to shout back at the actors as they plodded through repetitive scene after scene. This film reaches its nadir when the camera returns to lovingly survey the aftermath of a shootout, revealing victims who look like they've been torn apart by wild animals. Fortunately there's not much running time left by then but this film is dead long beforehand."
Richard Kuipers

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CAST: Martin Donovan, Joanna Going, Patrick Malahide, Richard Schiff, Danny Edwards, Karl Urban

PRODUCER: Sue Rogers

DIRECTOR: Scott Reynolds

SCRIPT: Scott Reynolds (based on the novel by Chat Taylor)


EDITOR: Wayne Cook

MUSIC: Victoria Kelly


RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 2, 1999 (Sydney & Melbourne)

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