SHAME is both a sturdily crafted social drama and a totally unnecessary remake of the 1987 Australian film of the same name. Less exploitative, action-oriented, and hard-edged than the original, SHAME's made-for-TV origins are very much to its detriment.
Diana Cadell (Amanda Donohoe), a prosecuting attorney from LA, is taking a vacation trip by motorcycle. She's forced off the road by a big rig and her bike is damaged, so she has to stop over in a dreary Oregon suburb. She discovers that the town has been polarized by a series of gang rapes; the
spoiled teenaged rapists are being protected by their parents, who control the village's economy. Diana is eager to leave, but wants to help Lizzie Curtis (Fairuza Balk), who, with her girlfriend Lorna (Shelley Owens), is sexually assaulted while on a double date.
Although Lizzie's date, Andrew Rudolph (Wyatt Orr)--whose mother owns the town's biggest factory--didn't participate, he set up the assault for his vicious friend Danny (Dan Gauthier) and Danny's jock pals. Diana's legal training and morals pit her against the town's lax sheriff and Mrs.
Rudolph. Though shocked by the lack of support Lizzie receives from her dad (Dean Stockwell), Diana resists further involvement until she herself is attacked one night after she picks up a part for her bike. Lizzie is subjected to public humiliation by the protective mother of one of her
assailants, but she bravely decides to press formal charges. The Curtis family is terrorized by the out-of-control teens, who kidnap Lizzie and try to frighten her into recanting her accusation. The terrified Lizzie jumps out of their car, killing herself in the process and shaming the vacillating
Lorna into testifying and escalating the teens' sexual battery charges into a murder rap.
Though unimaginatively reworked for its new American setting, SHAME is sensitively acted and keenly directed. Its production values are first-rate, and the screenplay is skillful and entirely convincing. But for all its tasteful qualities, SHAME still seems a faded second best. The Australian
movie was a wild original, a sexploitation film that made pointed observations about sex and violence without forgetting that it was an adrenalin-rush action picture. The gussied-up American version lacks the sexual charge and pungency of the original and scores on a different level--as an
earnest, TV-movie think piece. While in the first SHAME (which is at heart a female revenge picture) the facelessness of the villains worked, the retooled SHAME cries out for more psychological depth and insight. (Graphic violence, profanity, sexual situations.)
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