Do the creators of mainstream thrillers realize that, more and more often, audiences are laughing at the contrivances they’re being asked to swallow? In Malice (R), two characters execute a scheme that depends on an act of self- mutilation so misanthropically farfetched, so outrageous in its lack of human plausibility, that even when the movie is over you can’t quite believe what the filmmakers had in mind. The only thing that makes this ludicrous botch even borderline watchable is Alec Baldwin’s enjoyably supercilious performance as a leering stud surgeon who thinks nothing of belting back shots of bourbon before going in to perform an operation. As the college-town couple who are drawn into his web, Nicole Kidman, while saucy and appealing, lacks the ambiguous edge the role requires, and Bill Pullman has exactly one expression—a blandly constipated wince. The plot, which has the distinction of featuring a mysterious serial rapist who turns out to have nothing to do with anything, is (to paraphrase Winston Churchill) an implausibility wrapped around a contrivance inside an enigma. The enigma is how this script, cowritten by A Few Good Men‘s Aaron Sorkin, ever got sold. C-
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