Incognito

  • 1997
  • Movie
  • R
  • Thriller

Despite a cast headed by Jason Patric and Irene Jacob, major studio backing, and direction by John Badham, who usually is at least able to deliver mindlessly diverting commercial entertainment, INCOGNITO is a laughably cliched and incredibly hoary Euro-thriller about art forgery that was barely released theatrically before being consigned to vid-bins. Art...read more

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Despite a cast headed by Jason Patric and Irene Jacob, major studio backing, and direction by John Badham, who usually is at least able to deliver mindlessly diverting commercial entertainment, INCOGNITO is a laughably cliched and incredibly hoary Euro-thriller about art forgery that was

barely released theatrically before being consigned to vid-bins.

Art forger Harry Donovan (Jason Patric) is offered $500,000 by British gallery owners Davies (Thomas Lockyer), Iain III, known as "Ill" (Simon Chandler), and Agachi (Togo Igawa) to create a Rembrandt forgery. Donovan agrees, against the advice of his ailing artist father (Rod Steiger), who urges

his son to become a serious painter. Donovan flies to Europe to study Rembrandt's work, and he meets art student Marieke Van Den Broeck (Irene Jacob), with whom he has a one-night fling. After creating the forgery, Donovan delivers the painting to Davies, who takes it to a farm in Spain and pays

off its owner (Ricardo Montez) to "discover" it in his barn. A group of experts authenticate the painting, but when Marieke--who is actually the world's foremost Rembrandt authority--doubts its authenticity, Davies panics and refuses to pay Donovan. A struggle ensues and Donovan flees with the

painting.

Davies kills Agachi, then reports that Donovan stole the painting and shot Agachi. Donovan takes Marieke hostage and goes on the run, but after unsuccessfully trying to sell the painting, he's caught by the police. During his trial, Donovan claims that the painting is not a stolen Rembrandt but

his own forgery. To prove it, he starts to restage his forgery in court, but stops after learning that his father has died. However, Donovan is freed after Ill testifies that Davies really killed Agachi. Ill takes possession of the painting and auctions it off, but the Spanish government claims

the rights to the painting and the farmer gets $10 million, which he splits with Donovan. Donovan then joins Marieke in Paris, where he gives her one of his own paintings.

Beginning with a pre-flashback prologue of TV news footage depicting Donovan being chased and arrested, which is unaccountably shot in slow-motion black-and-white (those British newscasts sure are arty), INCOGNITO is one miscalculation and implausibility after another. The narrative is a

disjointed mess, with Donovan's abundant voice-overs trying to smooth over the illogic, while half the film seems to consist of montages accompanied by a generic rock score, e.g., Donovan gathering illicit materials to produce the forgery and sensuously painting while barechested as the camera

does a rhapsodic 360-degree circle; and then another one when Donovan restages his forgery in court, replete with dissolves to, yes, a ticking clock to show the hours going by, as Donovan hears his dead father's voice in his head, pleading with him to "develop a style of your own." The plot has so

many absurd coincidences and holes that it's not even worth detailing them all; most egregious, however, is the fact that Marieke turns out to be the top Rembrandt authority and how she just happens to be at the train station when Donovan flees there so he can abduct her, as well as the ease with

which he produces the forgery and tricks the art experts.

As the story plods improbably from one touristy location to another (Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, Dutch windmills, et al), Donovan insults Marieke's pony-tail-wearing Eurotrash friends with such witticisms as "I'm never offended by flatulence, I just move away from the smell," and when he and

Marieke go on the lam, they alternate between heavy petting and screaming at each other using the tritest dialogue imaginable: When she calls him a fraud, he replies "When are you going to realize that all this art crap is a fraud. Art was my dog's name." Dressed in black leather and a beret, the

permanently sullen and bestubbled Jason Patric exhibits a singular lack of leading-man charisma, and as in U.S. MARSHALS (1998), Irene Jacob is reduced to mere window-dressing, while the gushy Rod Steiger appears in three brief scenes (two of them on the phone) and cries in each one. Badham's

direction is as slick and superficial as ever, but it's amazing that he didn't see the irony in how his attempt to copy Hitchcock (right down to having Donovan and Marieke handcuffed together on the train; and lifting the screaming lady-train whistle segue from THE 39 STEPS) is identical to

Donovan's imitative and artistically anonymous character, who's chided for playing it safe and not taking creative risks. (Profanity, violence, nudity, sexual situations.)

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  • Released: 1997
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Despite a cast headed by Jason Patric and Irene Jacob, major studio backing, and direction by John Badham, who usually is at least able to deliver mindlessly diverting commercial entertainment, INCOGNITO is a laughably cliched and incredibly hoary Euro-thr… (more)

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