Half Moon Street (2002) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

This is a political thriller with Michael Caine and Sigourney Weaver. Caine plays someone named Lord Bulbeck, despite speaking with his usual working class accent (His idiolect is explained by something about an adventurer father with an eyepatch, and a childhood spent at the race track.) The "Lord" is attempting to use his international contacts and respect to broker some kind of Mideast peace settlement.

Sigourney Weaver plays a Harvard Ph.D. who is working in a Middle-East think tank in London for 150 per week. She finds that she can't make ends meet, so she does what most geniuses in her position would do. She becomes a high priced hooker - using her real name, and making nice-nice with the same people that she gives lectures to during the day. Needless to say one of her clients eventually turns out to be Lord Bulbeck himself, and ... well, a romance is born.

Meanwhile, because she is so upfront about what she does during her days and nights, some evil guys figure out that she's Lord Bulbeck's mistress. Some British security guys also figure it out, and so Sig and the Lord play out their sex acts in front of various binoculars and surveillance cameras.

As a political thriller, this is a very weak film, for two main reasons:

1. For 55 minutes, the audience is unaware that it is a thriller at all. Absolutely nothing seems to point in that direction. The script does eventually use many of the elements from this table-setting stage of the film, but there is a lot of tedium to crunch before the film appears to have any point.

2. When the film ends, the audience does not know what has happened, or why. The film ends abruptly after a violent shoot out. During the film we have been aware that some people have been watching Sig and the Lord, and we think it must be some evil Arab dudes who oppose a peace settlement and probably also the British secret service, who are probably protecting the good Lord, but we aren't sure. In fact, the film suggests that the real bad guys may actually be a powerful cabal called The 5000, who run the entire world with economic power and contacts. Whoever was trying to kill Lord Bulbeck, there is absolutely no reason given. So we end with a shoot-out at Sig's place between some anonymous good guys and a previously lovable bad guy, and then Michael Caine shows up and says he knew nothing about any of it.

He's in the same boat as the rest of us.

So this will not be your cup of tea if you're looking for a slick tale of international intrigue, but it does have some merit as a character study. The Sigourney Weaver character is not credible, but is interesting.

I say she isn't believable because she seems to have watched every movie ever made and to have learned every language ever spoken. There is a rule of compression which applies to various learning feats. In Good Will Hunting, for example, it is possible that a young man can immediately make an intuitive leap of thought in a field like mathematics. It isn't likely, but it is possible. In certain other fields, geniuses can read books and assimilate facts faster than the rest of us. However, there is no way that geniuses can watch movies any faster than the rest of us. It takes us two hours to watch a two hour movie, it takes them the same period of time.

Sigourney's character in this film seem to be about 28 years old - she got her Ph.D. and then spent three years in China, and that's where the film begins. I suppose a true genius would be embarrassed to be older than 25 when collecting a Ph.D. She'd get laughed out of the genius club! So let's assume she's 28.

I calculate that I have watched about 30,000 movies in my life. (That is way too many, I know). Sigourney, however, seems to know more about movies than I do.  Let's assume she has watched 35,000 movies, at an hour and a half each. In order to do that, she would have had to sit passively with her eyes glued to the movie screen six hours a day, every day of her life, from the time she was three years old. Does that sound to you like the type of behavior you'd expect from a person who has learned to speak every language in the world, is really into lengthy sex sessions, and is also an extreme fitness buff?

And if she's so smart, how does she get completely hornswaggled by these completely transparent Arab con artists who keep giving her free luxury apartments and lavish presents - no strings attached!

Yeah. Right.

OK, it isn't a realistic character, but let's give the script a little breathing room. Let's assume that she isn't supposed to be a real person, but a superhero like Spiderman, with powers beyond mortal ability. And her failure to suspect that her expensive presents are all bugged? Well, that's a kryptonite thing. Given that generous assumption, you may be able to enjoy the relationship between Weaver and Caine. They are a couple of pros who bring their unique charms to their characters. Sig is intense, thoughtful, quick-thinking. Caine is gentle, soft-spoken, gentlemanly. Together they managed to do the best with the weak script they were handed, and they convinced me that they were two people genuinely in love, not just interested in the sex, but completely enthralled with each other's minds.

NUDITY REPORT

Sigourney Weaver shows her breasts in the widescreen version. In the full-negative version on the other side of the DVD, she shows her complete butt in one scene, and her pubic hair in another.

A French actor named Vincent Lindon shows his butt in a clear full rear nude scene.

Unfortunately, the film doesn't give them nearly enough time to engage one another meaningfully. One or the other is always missing an appointment or petulantly refusing to answer phone calls, and when they do get together they spend altogether too much time arguing about his smoking.

I was interested in the characters, but the film makes you wish you could reunite the cast and crew back in 1986, and do it all over again with a more thoughtful and coherent script.

DVD info from Amazon

  • Widescreen anamorphic 1.85:1, and a full negative version on this two-sided DVD.

  • No features except a trailer

I'm not likely to get any awards from feminist groups for my sensitive understanding and treatment of women's issues, but even I found this film to present women in an unflattering light. Every other female character is a half-wit, and the Sigourney character - well, she was described in the feminine viewpoint with suitable distaste by Rita Kempley of the Washington Post.

"Dr. Loren Slaughter, we are told, is a woman of the '80s -- jogger, expert in Middle Eastern affairs, call girl. Turn-ons: Perrier with lemon, feminism. Turn-offs: terrorism and smoking. She's a lean, clean good-looker who moonlights for a London escort service to supplement her meager income from a noted research institute."

TUNA's THOUGHTS

Half Moon Street (1986) is a film I saw years ago on VHS, and remembered as rather boring. I'm afraid my opinion hasn't changed. It is written as a political thriller, but has far too little action to be very thrilling. I will use Scoop's notes above as a point of departure.

I never found Weaver convincing as a Harvard PhD. Her speech was wrong, and she was far too naive. Her sexuality as a woman who liked uncomplicated sex was somewhat daring in 1986. I think a more effective film could have been made emphasizing the love story between Weaver and Caine, and moving the political thriller story to the back burner. Their relationship has an interesting twist. He used escort services because he simply didn't have time for the "mating ritual," but never expected to find a female escort that was his intellectual and emotional equal. She was fiercely independent, or at least as independent as someone in her financial state could be, but found that she liked being with him.

As far as the feminist hoopla, and the supposed crime of her being so badly paid at her day job, it is nonsense. She took the prestigious job not realizing that the pay was not meant as a living wage, and that everyone else there was either already wealthy, or there on a grant.

The nudity from Weaver is frequent and comprehensive on the 4/3 version, and the Widescreen was not especially stunning. She shows breasts several times, buns in a stocking and garter dressing scene, and a quick flash of bush in a shower, and then for three frames getting out. Based on these three frames, I am convinced that it is actually bush.

The Critics Vote

  • Roger Ebert 3/4.

The People Vote ...

  • The film bombed, grossing only a million dollars in the USA.

 

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, Scoop says, "this film is a D as a political thriller, but it is a C (satisfactory movie) if you are looking for either (1) an offbeat character study with some charming performers (2) plenty of nudity from Sigourney Weaver." Tuna says, "This film fails completely as a political thriller, but fares slightly better dealing with the Caine/Weaver relationship, so is overall a low C-."
 

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