People I Know

Part seedy character study and part '70s-style paranoid thriller, driven by Al Pacino's blustering, grandstanding performance as down-at-the-heels New York publicist Eli Wurman. Over the course of a long 24 hours, the ailing, over-the-hill Eli tries to pull together a benefit that will, at least in his own mind, restore a scrap of the integrity he enjoyed...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Part seedy character study and part '70s-style paranoid thriller, driven by Al Pacino's blustering, grandstanding performance as down-at-the-heels New York publicist Eli Wurman. Over the course of a long 24 hours, the ailing, over-the-hill Eli tries to pull together a benefit that will, at least in his own mind, restore a scrap of the integrity he enjoyed back when his media savvy helped further important causes, like the civil rights movement. But Eli's waning energies are diverted from the plight of undocumented Nigerians facing imminent deportation to the sordid travails of spoiled, long-time client Cary Launer (Ryan O'Neal), a fatuous movie star with political ambitions. Having aborted a night of debauchery with druggy model-turned-TV personality Jilli Hopper (Tea Leoni) because she got herself arrested, Cary wants Eli to bail her out and send her back to L.A. before a whiff of scandal escapes. Eli dutifully shuffles downtown to retrieve Jilli and finds her belligerent and strung out; she drags the already exhausted Eli to a chi-chi opium den/brothel to retrieve a handheld video game that she says is actually a video camera containing compromising footage of celebrities and powers-that-be behaving badly. By the time Eli delivers Jilli to her hotel room in the wee hours of the morning, he's bleary eyed, drug-addled and feeling every year of his age. He passes out in Jilli's bathtub and awakes to find her dead, apparently of an overdose. But something doesn't jell — didn't he see someone else in the room just before he lost consciousness, and glimpse a struggle from his ignoble vantage point? The key to Eli's subsequent ordeal, which begins with oblique threats and police harassment and ends in conspiracy involving his most trusted confidants, lies in Jilli's video game, which Eli doesn't even realize he has. Pacino's no-holds-barred performance is either the reason to see this tepid thriller or the reason to avoid it. His evocation of a Sidney Falco-style flack worn to a nub by decades of trying to spin this dirty town is nothing if not bravura. But it's also tiresomely similar to his characterizations in THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE (1997), ANY GIVEN SUNDAY (1999), INSOMNIA (2002), SIMONE (2002) and THE RECRUIT (2003), except that he's supposed to be both Jewish and from Georgia, to which end he hocks people in a wandering Southern accent. The film's much-delayed theatrical release came after its debut as an in-flight movie.

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  • Released: 2002
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Part seedy character study and part '70s-style paranoid thriller, driven by Al Pacino's blustering, grandstanding performance as down-at-the-heels New York publicist Eli Wurman. Over the course of a long 24 hours, the ailing, over-the-hill Eli tries to pul… (more)

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