Combustible Celluloid
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With: Joseph Fiennes, Winona Ryder, David Arquette, Ty Burrell, Josh Charles, Kevin Dunn, Nora Dunn, Judah Friedlander, Lukas Haas, Tom Hollander, Brad Hunt, Juliette Lewis, Julianna Margulies, Tim Blake Nelson, Alessandro Nivola, Chris Penn, Max Perlich, D.B. Sweeney, Robin Tunney, Wilmer Valderrama, Adonal Foyle, Tom Wright, Adam Savage, Jamie Hyneman, Richmond Arquette, Mickey Breitenstein, Josh Kornbluth, Jerry Harrison, John Doe, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Lars Ulrich, James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo
Written by: Finn Taylor
Directed by: Finn Taylor
MPAA Rating: R for language, violent images, some sexuality and drug use
Running Time: 90
Date: 01/25/2006

The Darwin Awards (2007)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Start the Evolution Without Me

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

San Francisco filmmaker Finn Taylor (Dream with the Fishes, Cherish) scores with his third feature film, a delightful, winning tribute to those annual kudos given to people who died from sheer stupidity, thereby improving the gene pool. Thankfully, Taylor has decided to honor the victims rather than ridicule them, and we get a paean to American courage and ingenuity, even if it ends in failure. On the other end, we have our lead character Michael Burrows (Joseph Fiennes), a profiler obsessed with understanding and preventing risk, without ever taking any of his own. He uses liquid soap in the shower because of a 2% chance of slipping on bar soap. He loses his job with the San Francisco Police Department after his particular condition -- he faints at the sight of blood -- causes him to let a serial killer (Tim Blake Nelson) escape. He gets a provisional job working for an insurance company, and this pairs him with Siri (Winona Ryder), a much more jaded, harder-living soul. Together, they assess the various Darwin cases (apparently based on real events), looking for common elements. Of course, Michael begins to respect these people and begins to lose his own inhibitions, as well as falling in love with Siri. For some reason, a documentary filmmaker (Wilmer Valderrama) follows Michael around, making a film about his life; this is the only part of the film that just doesn't work. Despite the routine romantic arc, Taylor and his actors inject the film with plenty of goodwill, and the flashbacks to the Darwin incidents are great fun. Taylor has apparently called in every favor on the planet, and he peoples his film with an astonishing supporting cast: David Arquette (star of Dream with the Fishes) plays the famous fellow who once strapped a JATO unit to his car, and Juliette Lewis plays his wife. Robin Tunney (from Taylor's Cherish) also appears in a small role. Best of all, the Bay Area band Metallica appears during the sequence in which two stoners attempt to scale the wall at a concert. There are too many more actors to list here, but I'll conclude with the fact that this was Chris Penn's final performance, and he surely would have been proud to be among such good company.

Best Buy Co, Inc.