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The Shadow


Meant to launch a franchise in 1994, THE SHADOW is a schizophrenic mess, with great moments drowning in a lack of focus.

You can't blame Alec Baldwin, at his dashing mid-90's height of suave as Lamont Cranston/The Shadow, a 1930's version of Bruce Wayne/Batman.

Formerly a very bad man, Cranston has seen the light and created a vast network of supporters for his alter ego.

In the first of many things that over-the-top Director Russell Mulcahy gets wrong, Cranston becomes a completely different looking man as the shadow. Add in an annoying laugh and you get a title character that fails to thrill or intimidate.

Our villain in the piece is much better, with John Lone (The Last Emperor) playing the last descendant of Genghis Khan, back for world domination.

The supporting cast is too good for the film. Peter Boyle is Cranston's right hand man Moe, driving around the coolest NYC cab in decades. Ian Mckellen is a scientist hypnotized by Kahn into creating the world's first nuclear bomb to destroy Manhattan. Tim Curry is Kahn's cackling henchman and even Jonathan Winters shows up as Craston's uncle, who happens to be the Chief of Police.

Only Penelope Ann Miller seems miscast, dragging down the proceedings with a horrible performance, just as she did in "Carlito's Way" and "The Relic". She is the anti-Meryl Streep.

There are some really fun popcorn movie moments. Kahn's invisible art deco hotel in the middle of New York City is fantastic. That hypnotic Camel cigs billboard and its blowing smoke rings is great. Baldwin is really good from start to finish and the production design and sets look great.

But as a whole, the film seems to lurch from scene to scene with no real continuity. It's tongue-in-cheek one moment and deadly serious the next, then its a romantic comedy, then a crime drama.

If I would have cared more, my head would have spun, but instead I just sat there admiring the set design and Jerry Goldsmith's reliably great music score.

The film was written by David Koepp between "Jurassic Park" and the original "Mission Impossible" film. You can see moments of that same kind of big summer movie fun in glimpses here, but they're buried under the shadow of Mulcahy's madness.

He created some of the most relevant and ingenious music videos on MTV in the 80's. Maybe that short form serves his style better, as those videos still hold up, where his attempts at long form films nearly all failed, with the exception of his first film, "The Highlander".

"The Shadow knows...." and the audience knew to stay away from this mess in droves. It gets a C- bordering hard on a foggy, blurry over stylized D.

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