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Curiosity Kills

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The most intriguing thing about Curiosity Kills is the scraggly goatee worn by its star, C. Thomas Howell. It’s an ugly little thing that makes the handsome Howell look like Maynard G. Krebs as a psycho-killer, but it’s also a fabulous fashion statement, a cosmetic gesture that’s so out it’s in.

The goatee also makes a certain amount of dramatic sense. Howell, you see, is playing an artiste: He’s a struggling photographer who takes grim pictures of street people; to pay the rent he works as the maintenance man in his apartment building.

There’s a suspicious death in one of the apartments; as the super, Howell discovers the body and gets involved in all sorts of hectic hugger-mugger. There are allusions to such Hitchcock films as Rear Window and Vertigo; there are also vibrant performances by Courteney Cox as Howell’s fashion-model girlfriend and Rae Dawn Chong as a sculptor who helps Howell track down the bad guys.

Between them, Cox and Chong have more artfully tousled hair than you can shake a blow-dryer at, and when you combine their manes with Howell’s goatee, it suggests a future Ph.D. thesis paper by some enterprising young movie fan: ”Hair as Subtext in ‘Curiosity Kills.”’

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