Malice (1993) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna


I suppose the top story on "Malice" is that it was a remake of a film that was made only three years earlier, "The Operation", which featured Joe Penny and Lisa Hartman playing the parts which went to Alec Baldwin and Nicole Kidman in the later version.

Now this might make sense in the case of certain types of genre movie, but not in this case. It is a surprise-twist noir mystery, the entire surprise of which is that the doctor is in collusion with the woman who is suing him for a bazillion dollars. Now if you saw the earlier movie, as I did, there is no surprise at all. You simply think "oh, yeah, it's a remake of the movie where the doctor allows himself to be sued and even hurts his own case just so he can get half of a massive settlement".

"Malice" did add some additional details and sub-plots, but for no apparent reason. For example, there is an entire sub-plot about a campus rapist, which has almost nothing to do with the main story, and which is summarily dismissed in the middle of the film when a professor accidentally stumbles upon the rapist's lair. Huh? So why was it in there? Just a complex bit of atmosphere? This sub-plot did give us a chance to see a very young Gwyneth Paltrow in a small part as the last victim. That might have been more exciting if she weren't fully dressed, even after the rape!

And then there was the matter of the strawberries.

Now we have this matter of plot exposition. Halfway through the movie, the kindly husband (Bill Pullman) has lost his scheming wife. Unaware of the doctor-patient conspiracy, he thinks at first that she's just upset with him, until some new info comes to light. He knew that she was pregnant when she had the botched operation, and he accidentally finds out that he is sterile. (Giving us Bill Pullman's sperm sample was the only reason for the rapist sub-plot)


Now that Pullman knows that, how to advance the plot? Pullman has no idea where to turn, so he accuses Kidman's lawyer (Peter Gallagher) of having gigantic eyebrows and sleeping with Kidman. Gallagher pleads guilty to the eyebrow thing, but it turns out he was only Kidman's lawyer. Period.


Although Nicole Kidman teases us, no nipples are ever seen, and the scenes are in almost total darkness. The only visible body part is a butt in dark light. Although that looks like Kidman, it is not possible to ascertain the identification.

Famous flub: There is an editing error similar to the one in NatLamp's "Vacation" (where D'Angelo could be seen showering in panties). The last time she undresses for Baldwin, her breasts rise too high when she ships her top over her head. The camera shows that the "topless" Kidman is wearing a bandeau! )

Debrah Farentino shows breasts and buttocks in very brief flashes.

But a discussion of Kidman's mother's estate leads Pullman to realize something is wrong. Kidman told her husband that the lawyer was working on her mother's estate, but the lawyer has no idea what this line of questioning is about, mainly because the mother is still alive. So Pullman realizes that he must track down mom. Turns out mom hates Kidman, so she essentially tells us and Pullman the entire plot, but not before doing some really hammy "old gypsy woman" acting. I guess someone forgot to tell Anne Bancroft that she wasn't supposed to be playing an old gypsy, but for me you can't get too much of old gypsy women who provide plot exposition, so I'm glad they never told her.

The only thing I like better is waterfront taverns full of salty old sea dogs who provide plot exposition. These are always played by rough and tumble guys like Cameron Mitchell and Sterling Hayden, and you can always count on these scenes for plenty of eye patches and squeezebox music. But you don't really need sailors unless the plot is actually about old gypsy women, since the gypsies can't rat themselves out. (That's the code of honor for colorful incidental characters.)

So Pullman, armed with ancient gypsy secrets, figures out a counter-plot to bring Kidman to justice, and all ends well. Kidman goes to the slammer, and Alec Baldwin moves to France when Bush is elected, as he had promised.

I would explain to you how Kidman and Baldwin met in the first place, but I didn't understand that whole sub-plot. Apparently Kidman met Baldwin when she went to his abortion clinic, which he operated under an assumed name. What? He was supposed to have been the best surgeon in the history of Harvard Medical School. That wasn't enough to keep him wealthy and busy? He also had to perform abortions under an assumed name? I got lost on that whole deal.

But not as lost as I am about the mechanics of how Baldwin came to be living in Pullman and Kidman's house. OK, let's see if I've got this straight. You put out a "room for rent" sign, and the guy who wants the room is the acknowledged best surgeon in the history of the planet. Would you smell some kind of rat? How many of the world's top 25 surgeons live in a single room in somebody else's house and get drunk every night in public bars? To top off this piece of illogic, the plot didn't even need Baldwin to be living in the house. That point was not germane to the conspiracy. All Baldwin needed was to befriend Pullman, not to rent a room from him.

And why would the top surgeon in the world sell out his reputation for 5 million dollars? A billion, maybe, but 5 million? That's not even a good year for someone at this alleged level of talent.

So the best parts of the plot were almost identical to "The Operation", and just about everything that they changed from the earlier film was either illogical or sloppy. Good job, screenwriters!

DVD info from Amazon.

Avoid it.

Not even a widescreen version!

The only "feature" of note is a trailer

Fortunately, the movie isn't as bad as the script.

Some atmospheric set-ups and some fun characterizations, especially campy soap-opera hyperemoting, make the film enjoyable to watch despite the loopholes and cliches. Baldwin has a role that requires him to act evil in order to maximize the value of the suit against him. Because of the scam, the more he loses in the suit, the more he gains. Therefore, he makes every effort to act as arrogant and irresponsible as possible. On top of that, the character must be demented to begin with, just to get involved in such a low-rent scheme from his lofty and respected position. So Baldwin takes advantage of the opportunity to deliver a deliciously nutty reading in the second half of the movie.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two and a half stars. Ebert 2/4, Berardinelli 2.5/4, Maltin 2.5/4, Apollo 74.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 6.2, Apollo users 48/100.
  • With their dollars ... it did good. $46 million domestic gross
My guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C. It is a D script enlivened and partially redeemed by an entertaining presentation.

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