The Manchurian Candidate

Director: Jonathan Demme
Year Released: 2004
Rating: 2.0

Not quite the embarrassment I was predicting when the trailers started playing on TV or when I saw the groan-worthy print ads in Manhattan, this is a decent action picture for the first half of its running time, having fun with Denzel Washington's paranoia and plugging in some deranged flashbacks (Jeffrey Wright, in neo-Basquiat mode, is great as one of Washington's former soldiers). Things become a lot more problematic for the picture at large during the second half, however, where it completely gives in to its intolerably far-fetched paranoia, removing any and all potential subtlety - it could be argued that the longer it plays, the more ridiculous and far-reaching it becomes (the ending, in particular, is vague in a bad way, and more slipshod than haunting or mysterious). It's like a modern strain of those Stanley Kramer movies I like to complain about: lots of liberal whining with no let-up (boo, Corporate America; boo, manipulative political machine).