Sunday, January 22, 2006

Clooney! Kidman! No chemistry!: "The Peacemaker"

Not to mention another Clooney movie, but a perfect storm led me to see this recently for a second time. After the lady of the house had gone to bed, I was trolling for something to kill a little more time before retiring for the evening. Lo, there was "The Peacemaker," a passable action movie about stolen nuclear weapons that stars two of the best looking people on the planet. Yeah, that should last me until 1 a.m.!

I didn't see "The Peacemaker" when it came out back in 1997, mainly because I hadn't heard anything great about it and was pretty sick of the George Clooney lovefest from the first few seasons of "ER." Fine show, and I watched it until 4-5 years ago. But Clooney's mugging for the camera and sudden stardom after struggling for a decade in such fare as "Grizzly II," "Return of the Killer Tomatoes" and "Knights of the Kitchen Table" was wearing on me. Besides, Kidman didn't look very hot in the movie and already had done much better work, i.e. "To Die For" and the hugely underrated "Malice."

She still doesn't look so good, but this isn't a bad little thriller. After a nuclear explosion in Russia masks the theft of warheads, Kidman (head of the U.S. government's nuclear smuggling group) and Clooney (an Army guy) team up to track down the weapons of mass destruction, which most likely won't be donated to charity. This involves a little globetrotting and some arguing between the leads, which you would think might build romantic tension. But no, there's no time for that. They've got to save the world, people!

After a warhead robbery that seems to last forever rather than build suspense, the movie picks up pace and proceeds briskly over two hours. For their bickering, neither Kidman's nor Clooney's character comes off as stupid, and they fall into a believable collaboration in chasing down the nukes. Even more convincing is the "villain" -- really just a Bosnian guy with understandable personal reasons for wanting to make some bureacrats glow in the dark. I'm not saying that makes detonating a bomb right, but just understandable.

If anything, "The Peacemaker" may be a little too straightforward. Clooney still is a bit smug but not terribly so, and I'm not saying that because I softened on him over the years. ("Out of Sight" still is my favorite of his movies.) The normally luminous Kidman looks plain enough here for her role, which she would call on again several years later for "The Interpreter." And it's probably just as well that the two leads don't try to flirt until the world is safe. First, there's no way I can see dignified Nicole and player George getting together, period. Second, it's no fun doing the nasty when nukes are on the loose.


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