The Blackout

Abel Ferrara's gift for getting actors to dredge up the ugliest muck in their souls and bare it onscreen is used to strong effect in this psychological thriller. Self-loathing Matty (Matthew Modine), a hotshot Hollywood actor, is on a drug- and booze-fueled collision course with his inner demons. In Miami Beach to make up with his French girlfriend, Annie...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Abel Ferrara's gift for getting actors to dredge up the ugliest muck in their souls and bare it onscreen is used to strong effect in this psychological thriller. Self-loathing Matty (Matthew Modine), a hotshot Hollywood actor, is on a drug- and booze-fueled collision course with his inner demons. In Miami Beach to make up with his French girlfriend, Annie (Beatrice Dalle), he finds her making a chaotic, improvisational film called "Nana in Miami" for whacked-out director Mickey (Dennis Hopper). Set in a strip club, "Nana" is being shot on digital video ("It's the future, man," Mickey prophesies) and incorporates the cast and crew's off-screen lives. Matty's impulsive marriage proposal — in which he declares he wants to spend his life with Annie and their unborn child — sparks an incredibly ugly scene. Annie confesses that after he decamped, she terminated her pregnancy. He berates her viciously and she walks out, but not before playing a tape of Matty's reaction when she told him she was pregnant, a vitriolic, coked-up rant in which he accuses her of being a diseased whore, denies paternity and virtually orders her to have an abortion. With Annie gone, Matty sinks deeper into his self-obliterating funk, abetted by the decadent Mickey, and the plot takes a shades-of-VERTIGO turn. Matty runs into a waitress (Sarah Lassez) who reminds him of the missing Annie, especially after Mickey fixes her up with a wig that accentuates the resemblance. And her name is Annie too... Eighteen months later, Matty is clean and sober, living in New York with a new girlfriend (supermodel Claudia Schiffer, in her acting debut) and trying to get his life back on track. But he's haunted by nightmares and the thought that he might have done something to Annie, so he takes an ill-advised trip back to Florida in hopes of laying the ghosts to rest. Although not on par with Ferrara's best work — MS. 45, KING OF NEW YORK, CHINA GIRL or the blistering BAD LIEUTENANT — this woozy, limpidly photographed wallow in Miami's neon slime features Modine's most disturbing performance since BIRDY (1984). Hopper's freeform sputtering frequently crosses the line between intense and ludicrous, Schiffer proves a negligible screen presence, and the sleaze quotient is sky high — all those malleable strippers! But the film is oddly haunting, a reminder that even in his lesser work, Ferrara's ability to provoke is unparalleled.

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  • Released: 1997
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Abel Ferrara's gift for getting actors to dredge up the ugliest muck in their souls and bare it onscreen is used to strong effect in this psychological thriller. Self-loathing Matty (Matthew Modine), a hotshot Hollywood actor, is on a drug- and booze-fuele… (more)

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