Writer/director Tony Gilroy was responsible for 2007’s silly and incomprehensible “Michael Clayton.” Here, however, he doesn’t try to be serious. In this thriller that tries more for laughs than tension, he has created two rival pharmaceutical giants, Omnikron who is headed by CEO Dick Garsik (Paul Giamatti) and Burkett & Randle who is headed by industry titan Howard Tully (Tom Wilkinson). Into this hateful mix comes former MI6 agent Ray Koval (Clive Owen) and former CIA officer Claire Stenwick (Julia Roberts). After a romantic fling in which Claire stings Ray, they meet again and decide to go into business for themselves. They target Omnikron and Burkett & Randle but what they do and how they do it is so convoluted, one doesn’t really begin to put it all together until the dénouement.
There are flashbacks galore and each begins with Ray trying to pick Claire up with the same line. But the real story is: what’s going on? What is the scam and who is scamming who?
Owen gives another sterling performance while pairing with former “Pretty Woman” Julia Roberts, who not only appears to have gained some weight but the years that have passed since she teamed up with Richard Gere are becoming evident. I liked Tom Wilkinson’s role because it’s a little understated. That can’t be said for Giamatti, who is so over the top it looks like he’s giving a performance left over from “Michael Clayton.” Maybe Gilroy just wanted to make it abundantly clear who the villain is here.
Although fun, this is certainly not a film that will live in history, however, it will remain in my mind mainly because of one terrific line. There have been many, many memorable lines from movies and five of the multitude that comes flooding to memory are:
“One more remark like that and I’ll wrap the piano around your neck.” -George Raft to ‘Fingers’ (Joseph Pevney), Nocturne
“I said I liked it. I didn’t say I wanted to kiss it.” -Gloria Grahame to Bogart, In a Lonely Place
“I like talking to a man who likes to talk.” – Sidney Greenstreet to Humphrey Bogart, The Maltese Falcon
“I’ll admit I might have seen better days but I’ll still not be had for the price of a cocktail like a salted peanut.” -Bette Davis, All About Eve
“You’re a cookie full of arsenic; I’d hate to take a bite out of you.” -Burt Lancaster, Sweet Smell of Success
There is one memorable line in this, one that measures up to those above, which might give an added incentive to seeing it.