Given its fine cast and tony pedigree, one would expect this movie to be more than a workmanlike adaptation of the novel by Joseph Conrad. 1913, Surabaya, The Dutch East Indies: Axel Heyst (Willem Dafoe) became an outcast after his partner, Morrison, ruins their coal company and though Morrison subsequently died from natural causes, the vicious local gossip suggests that Axel had something to do with his death. Hotelier Schomberg (Jean Yanne) keeps an eye on Axel's socializing while dabbling in some illegal business of his own. Schomberg's partner in crime, Mr. Sangiacomo (Simon Callow), poses as a booking agent and provides Schomberg's male clientele with unhappy hookers in the guise of female musicians. Axel senses a kindred spirit in prostitute Alma (Irene Jacob), but Schomberg already has plans to buy her and make her his next wife. With the help of the current Mrs. Schomberg (Irm Hermann), Axel whisks Alma away to his secluded island, but their idyll is short-lived. Back on the mainland, menacing gambler Jones (Sam Neill) has set up shop at Schomberg's hotel with his two thugs, Ricardo (Rufus Sewell) and Pedro (Graziano Marcelli). Hoping to get rid of the cheating interloper, Schomberg spreads the rumor that Axel has a hidden fortune. Jones and his crew pretend to be lost wayfarers and insinuate themselves into Axel's paradise. Ricardo takes a shine to Alma, who uses his interest as leverage, but she can't use her wiles on the homosexual Jones, who refuses to leave without the non-existent treasure. Axel's pious native servant, Wang (Ho Yi), mistakes Alma's pragmatic flirting for infidelity, and Axel himself begins to doubt her loyalty. Conrad enthusiasts would do better to watch the 1940 version oF VICTORY; this remake is always too decorous for its melodramatic material and the splendid cast can't overcome co-writer/director Mark Peploe's literal-mindedness.
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- Released: 1995
- Rating: R
- Review: Given its fine cast and tony pedigree, one would expect this movie to be more than a workmanlike adaptation of the novel by Joseph Conrad. 1913, Surabaya, The Dutch East Indies: Axel Heyst (Willem Dafoe) became an outcast after his partner, Morrison, ruin… (more)