Rick

on September 24, 2004 by Sheri Linden
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"Rick" starts out as a dark sendup of male corporate culture a la "In the Company of Men" and quickly retreats into an ostensibly sympathetic portrait of one of its villains. In the title role, the dependable Bill Pullman does the best he can with the split-personality material. But the intended black comedy is no more than a wan mix of over-the-top unpleasantness and obvious psychologizing.

Pullman plays a high-level exec at a New York consulting firm who spends a good part of his day trading sports talk and misogynist quips with his much younger boss, Duke (Aaron Stanford). The kind of self-centered creep who proclaims how good he is with people while getting their names wrong, Rick astounds Michelle (Sandra Oh) when she interviews to be his assistant. Threatened by her intelligence, he unleashes a barrage of insults before declaring her unfit for the position. Hours later he gets her fired from her job as a cocktail waitress, and she tells him, "You're an evil person. I curse you."

Regardless of whether he's under a curse, plot contrivances escalate from there. Left in the dust is the promise of an edgy portrait of self-loathing men whose only real power is cruelty. Before long, Rick has retained the services of Buck (Dylan Baker), who runs a Murder Inc. for stalled execs seeking to rid themselves of career-blocking bosses or rivals. Clinching the deal for Rick is Duke's attraction to his precocious teenage daughter, Eve (Agnes Bruckner). In a hard-to-buy coincidence, Rick's boss and daughter have been anonymous sex-chat partners before beginning their real-world flirtation. Welded onto all this nastiness is the fact that Rick is still mourning his murdered wife; he "used to be a good person," dontcha know.

The script by Daniel Handler (aka kids'-book author Lemony Snicket) captures the empty jargon and casual brutalities of these blowhards in suits but lacks the strength of its convictions. Rather than push the premise, it attempts to turn Rick into a brokenhearted victim. Few viewers will care when Rick and Eve, two manipulators, become trapped in their own webs. In his feature debut, Curtiss Clayton, an accomplished film editor, creates an upscale netherworld but can't quite negotiate the story's essential split. Pullman aside, the performances lack spark. Starring Bill Pullman, Aaron Stanford, Agnes Bruckner, Dylan Baker and Sandra Oh. Directed by Curtiss Clayton. Written by Daniel Handler. Produced by Ruth Charny, Jim Czarnecki and Sofia Sondervan. A Vitagraph release. Comedy/Drama. Rated R for sexual content and language. Running time: 95 min

Tags: Starring Bill Pullman, Aaron Stanford, Agnes Bruckner, Dylan Baker and Sandra Oh. Directed by Curtiss Clayton. Written by Daniel Handler, Produced by Ruth Charny, Jim Czarnecki, Sofia Sondervan, Dylan Baker and Sandra Oh. Directed by Curtiss Clayton. Written by Daniel Handler. Produced by Ruth Charny, Comedy, Drama
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