Slaying Mantis

Sorvino plays the role with a monotonous intensity that made me think of middle-period Liv Ullmann. Then I read she'd wanted to be the female Harrison Ford. Giancarlo Giannini at least looks colorful against the likes of Northam and Josh Brolin (Northam's assistant); Charles S. Dutton brings an apt derisive air to the role of the transit cop. But Del Toro's handling of the cast is witless. Why push F. Murray Abraham into smarmy close-ups as Dr. Tyler's mentor if he's not going to become an insect in disguise?

Unlike the sci-fi-horror flicks of the '50s, movies such as Mimic are overly self-conscious about their visual design and completely unconscious of the possibilities for entertainment. The radioactive ants in Them! look pretty silly today, but at least you could see Them. Del Toro is so devoted to Gothic shadows in Mimic that he never gives you a full, satisfying gawk at his amazing flying Judases. If there was a kick to having nasty bugs upset the status quo in '50s America, in the '90s they come off as a predictable outgrowth of our everyday chaos. They're not haunting Creatures of the Id; they're disposable Creatures of the "Ick!"

Directed by Guillermo Del Toro. With Mira Sorvino and Jeremy Northam. Rated R. 102 minutes.

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