BARING FLESH can be a career-making—or breaking—move for many actors. Liam Neeson may have upped the, er, ante by being the recipient of the first big-screen enema. Well, OK, you don't see anything but Neeson's grimace as his chipper nurse (Sandra Bullock) makes jokes.
directed by Eric Blakeney
with Sandra Bullock, Liam Neeson, and Oliver Platt
opens February 4 at Metro, Meridian 16, Oak Tree, other local theaters
The gastric humor doesn't stop there. Neeson plays Charlie Mayo, an undercover DEA agent whose last drug bust left him traumatized and sick to his stomach—literally. Mayo spends half the movie running to the bathroom—when he's not sucking cigarettes and popping tranquilizers. Soon, with the aide of his new therapy group buddies, Charlie is probing his inner child. The only problem is, he's also in the middle of a dangerous drug sting operation.
Charlie's very real fear of dying and his relationship with Fulvio (Oliver Platt), a violent but soul-searching mafioso, are what make the film. Charlie's dreams and flashbacks from his last botched sting are horrifying, yet laced with an odd beauty. Drug lords perform tour jet鳠as they're pierced with bullets. Statues come alive and flutter around the room. Meanwhile Fulvio unexpectedly warms to Charlie, confiding to him, "I'm a fucking clich鮢 It's familiar ground after recent mobster-with-a-heart films like Analyze This and Mickey Blue Eyes, but it's also much darker.
Gun Shy's funniest moments involve the infighting among the gangsters. Charlie's set-up is part of the joke: He tries to nail them in a commodities scheme. They, in turn, bicker over what to buy. (The Colombians get offended when they buy beans; the Italian don counters, "I wouldn't be offended if they bought olive oil.")
Despite the clever script, the film is still deeply flawed. Scenes drag on, the chemistry between Bullock and Neeson is nonexistent, and it all gets wrapped up with a very implausible and too-cute finale. It's too bad, because Neeson almost makes the movie work with his finely nuanced talent.