Hot and Bothersome

Though hooey on harassment, Disclosure knows how to entertain

To its credit, though, Disclosure somehow finds the right tone to contain its digressions, contradictions and missteps. It has a slick, seductive, appealing look that falls between domestic melodrama and modern noir, and it moves with such vigor and precision that you don't realize how preposterous and sometimes offensive it is until you've thought it over later. Levinson and Attanasio have a strong enough feel for the vagaries of real-world behavior that the film never seems flat or perfunctory. There are real people in this movie, fighting over real issues with real consequences, and even if the way they're presented sometimes feels one-sided and phony, you can't help respecting Disclosure for at least trying to be smart and adult. Even when it degenerates into a morass of techno-wonk visuals and a ludicrously overwrought thriller plot it never stops holding your interest.

But it does beg the question of how much longer Michael Douglas can keep playing these parts without lapsing into inadvertent self-parody. By now, the image of this smallish, surly, shaggy-haired fellow stalking around in a dress shirt and tie and expressing fear of women and minorities is as familiar to moviegoers as John Wayne in a cowboy hat. He's a solid leading man who displays the same kind of irascible everyman charm -- and some of the actorly versatility -- that I've always loved in Spencer Tracy. And as much as I dislike his politics, I can't help admiring his determination, film after film, to both entertain viewers and get them arguing en route to their cars.

You know exactly what you're getting when you buy a ticket to his films: a tale of a middle-class straight white guy trying to get along in a world that's forever plotting his downfall. In the last decade, his celluloid showdowns with minorities (Romancing the Stone, et al.) and women (Fatal Attraction, etc.) have coalesced into a filmic body of work that's surprisingly unified and consistent. Falling Down, his spirit-of-Anglo-America-on-the-rampage epic, plays like a manifesto for the emerging conservative majority: it's as muddled, angry and self-canceling as reactionary politics itself -- Taxi Driver for the Rush Limbaugh set.

How long, I wonder, until his films are sold via TV spots in a shrink-wrapped boxed set, along with a case of Bud Light, a year's subscription to Playboy and a souvenir copy of The Way Things Ought to Be?

Directed by Barry Levinson. With Michael Douglas and Demi Moore.
Rated R.
128 minutes.

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