Harrison's Flowers: Isabel Ellsen
Owen Gleiberman
March 13, 2002 AT 05:00 AM EST

Harrison's Flowers

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
runtime
122 minutes
Limited Release Date
03/15/02
performer
Adrien Brody, Andie MacDowell, David Strathairn
director
Elie Chouraqui
distributor
Universal
author
Elie Chouraqui, Isabel Ellsen, Michael Katims, Didier Le Pecheur
genre
Drama

We gave it a B-

Adrien Brody, with his hawk-eyed insolence, has a way of stealing scenes, if not entire movies. In Harrison’s Flowers, a Bosnian war drama with a jittery, feral, exploding-death-trap background and a junky Hollywood foreground, Brody plays a freelance combat photographer named Kyle who takes a mean and skanky pride in one-upping more established photogs by seeking out the worst hellholes he can find. This vicious, taunting hipster is at home in the stink of war, and Brody, flashing a pirate grin, makes him at once contemptible, admirable in his daring, and half-crazy. Imagine Dennis Hopper in ”Apocalypse Now” the moment before his brain snapped.

It’s 1991, and Kyle is serving as a makeshift tour guide for Sarah (Andie MacDowell), who has come to search for her husband, a Newsweek photographer (David Strathairn) who has been reported killed amid the onslaught of Yugoslavian atrocities. ”Harrison’s Flowers” is a chintzy melodrama gussied up as hair-trigger combat ”reality,” but there’s no denying the vividness with which the French cowriter-director Elie Chouraqui has visualized the chaos of Croatia. The piles of corpses, the bombs that seem to go off right in front of your face, the sense that the ”ethnic cleansing” is less a matter of neatly divided tribes than of a single mass of men eating itself alive — if Chouraqui ever finds a story as gripping as his imagery, he may make a hell of a war movie.

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