Rated R, 100 min. Directed by Curtiss Clayton. Starring Bill Pullman, Agnes Bruckner, Aaron Stanford, Sandra Oh, Dylan Baker.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Oct. 15, 2004

The feature filmmaking debut of Gus Van Sant’s longtime editor Curtiss Clayton is a nasty piece of work. Rick is a tragic story graced with lots of comedic touches, which makes for an often awkward tone. Most of the characters are dislikable, too, a factor that doesn’t help the film ingratiate itself with audiences. Yet the film will not be ignored, and it would be a mistake to avert your eyes completely because Rick is a stubbornly unusual film that does what it does with great assurance and efficiency. Its very willingness to risk being unpleasant sets it apart from the drab and mundane. It might or might not help to know that Rick’s story is a modern take on Verdi’s Rigoletto, but even more interesting than that fact is that the screenplay was written by Daniel Handler, the author responsible for all those Lemony Snicket books for young readers. Rick is set within a venomous corporate atmosphere of male privilege and downsized expectations – a setting that immediately calls to mind In the Company of Men. Rick (Pullman) is a top executive at a company called Image. He’s best pals with the boss, Duke (Stanford), a whippersnapper half his age, who spends most of the day in online sex chat rooms logged on as BIGBOSS. The two men roughhouse and carouse (activities that disguise the real contempt Rick has for Duke) and demean the women who work for them. When they run into a rejected job applicant (Oh) waiting tables in a bar and cause her to lose that job as well, the woman in return puts a curse on Rick. Thereafter, Rick’s teen daughter (Bruckner, last seen in Blue Car) and her affinity for computer sex chat enters the picture, as does an ominous old school friend Buck (Baker), who is now in the business of "eliminating" a client’s competition. It would all be very melodramatic if the movie were playing to the viewer’s heart, but instead it plays to the head and catches up the viewer in the characters’ mind games. It’s a frequently riveting gambit, and the actors give it their all. However, the mood and the stylized camerawork make the proceedings too arch to completely succeed. Now, if only it had been an opera.
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