Owen Gleiberman
October 08, 1999 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Random Hearts

Current Status
In Season
133 minutes
Wide Release Date
Harrison Ford, Kristin Scott-Thomas, Peter Coyote, Dennis Haysbert
Sydney Pollack
Columbia Tri-Star Home Video
Kurt Luedtke
Drama, ActionAdventure, Romance

We gave it an D

Random Hearts, Sydney Pollack’s preposterous romantic mystery starring Harrison Ford, is the movie that dares to ask, What’s even worse than learning that your wife has just been killed in a plane crash? Answer: Learning that she was on her way to Miami for a weekend rendezvous with her lover. If it’s possible to look like you want to cry and strangle stray pedestrians at the same time, Ford succeeds, but I’m not sure that this is an acting triumph audiences will respond to. In his gloomy, introspective mode, Ford steamrolls every scene with the heaviness of his emotions. He becomes a thick-witted, broodingly stylized hero: Torment Man.

The thing is, we’re supposed to be watching this guy fall in love. During a visit to the Saks department store where his wife worked, Ford’s Dutch Van Der Broeck learns that she lied to him about the purpose of her trip, and he’s too smart not to figure out why. He soon learns of the identity of the man (Peter Coyote) she was seated with — he was killed on the plane as well — and then pays a visit to the man’s wife.

Dutch’s fellow spouse-in-mourning, Kay Chandler (Kristin Scott Thomas), turns out to be a feisty New Hampshire congresswoman running for reelection. If the story of her husband’s adultery gets out, her candidacy will be ruined. That, at least, is what we’re supposed to think. But what I thought was: Must every movie now come with a faux-timely political-media angle?

In the first of many ludicrous scenes, Dutch goes down to Miami to find his wife’s extramarital hideaway (he walks into a neon-swank South Beach restaurant where they — gulp! — tangoed), and there he runs into Kay. The two seem about as romantic as rival insurance investigators, but before long they’re sitting in a car, their frenzied embrace an act of desperate, neurotic desire.

”Random Hearts” might best be described as bereavement porn. Pollack lingers over the details of the plane crash, and the dialogue is a series of morose retro howlers. He: ”Was wondering if you would come.” She: ”Guy like you, girl like me, what possible reason could there be not to?” The nuttiest thing about the movie is that once Dutch and Kay have figured out what their spouses were up to, there’s nothing left for them to discover, yet Dutch keeps on snooping around.

What, exactly, is he looking for? Old perfume bottles? A prescription for venereal-disease medicine? Pollack must think he’s making a movie as obsessive as ”Vertigo,” but there’s a depressingly dated soap-opera-noir fustiness to the way he turns his hero into a cuckolded Philip Marlowe.

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