Flawless

Directed by Joel Schumacher
Starring: Robert De Niro, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Barry Miller, Skip Sudduth, Rory Cochrane, Daphne Rubin-Vega.
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language and strong violence.

Review by Matt Heffernan
November 30, 1999

The second half of the 1990's have not been entirely kind to Joel Schumacher. After critical acclaim for The Client in 1994, he followed up with the dismal Batman Forever. As if that film wasn't bad enough to kill the series, he offered Batman and Robin to put the nail in the coffin. Throw in 8MM, and you have a pretty bad state of affairs. In hopes of reviving his career, he has teamed up with Robert De Niro's production company (Tribeca Productions) and got the actor to star in a new film, written by Schumacher, himself.

De Niro plays Walt Koontz, a former NYPD cop who lives by himself in a small apartment. In an apartment upstairs, some crack whores are disturbed by gun-toting hoodlums who are looking for their boss' money. As Walt is climbing the stairs to take down the bad guys, he has a stroke, and they get away before finding their money.

Walt is now mostly paralyzed on the right side, and can barely walk or talk. His physical therapist suggests that he get singing lessons for speech therapy. Reluctantly, the conservative cop goes to his neighbor, a drag queen named "Busty" Rusty (Philip Seymour Hoffman), for the lessons. During the course of the lessons, they learn about life from different perspectives, yadda, yadda, yadda, and the bad guys are still looking for the loot.

As with Schumacher's other recent films, Flawless is very confused. He seems to be completely unsure of himself, even though he has a great cast and a good potential story. The problem is that he feels compelled to use the gangster subplot to "spice up" the film. He even involves them in a violent ending, which is supposed to reveal some moral lesson. That nearly ruins what could have been a new beginning to his career.

At least he made the right decision by casting De Niro. Even when the plot starts to lose credibility, his performance never does. Also giving another fine performance is Hoffman, who usually takes on daring roles, like Rusty. However, Schumacher's form does not allow Hoffman to reach the level he attained in Boogie Nights and Happiness. Instead, he is forced to take the character in ridiculous directions, and he does his best to make it work.

I'm afraid that Schumacher is going to lose even more friends with this film. The Batman crowd is long gone, and now he is certain to alienate most of the gay community. All the gay men in Flawless are either drag queens or Republicans. That is really unfair, and he has risked the acceptance of this film by the vast majority in between.


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Flawless (1999)

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Flawless (1999) -- VHS
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Review © 1999 Matt Heffernan