After years of turning out scrappy, ”subversive” B movies that were more fun to read about than to watch, the bad-boy director Abel Ferrara finally got his act together with last year’s Bad Lieutenant, a shockingly intense parable of sin and addiction that featured Harvey Keitel-in the role that crystallized his comeback-as a New York cop enslaved by his own sensual cravings. The success of Bad Lieutenant must have gone to Ferrara’s head, because his new movie, DANGEROUS GAME (R), is an ego-driven botch, one of those dawdlingly self-important, semi-improvised affairs about a director making a movie that turns out to be just like the one you’re watching (or is it the other way around?). Eddie Israel (Keitel again), a hot talent, arrives in Los Angeles to commence shooting his new drama about a marriage that’s descended into hell (i.e., drugs, swinging sex, and videotape). We see Eddie coaxing his actors through scenes of rage, lust, despair. We see the two actors (played by James Russo and Madonna) in their offscreen lives, which-naturally-parallel their on-screen ones. We see Eddie in his off-screen life, which-naturally-parallels the one he’s trying to construct on screen. Reality and artifice, documentary and fiction who can tell the difference when everyone is overacting this badly? Actually, Madonna isn’t embarrassing; she plays down the wax-goddess exhibitionism. This time it’s Ferrara who’s the exhibitionist, giving us endless, rambling takes of Eddie as he stands around the set pontificating about salvation and trying to draw the Naked Truth out of his actors. In a film rich with unintentional humor, the moment of purest camp comes when Keitel, instructing Russo in how to give a proper reading of the line ”I need these things!” (i.e., drugs, swinging sex, and videotape), tells him to deliver the sentiment ”to God.” Is this how Abel Ferrara directs his actors? Next time, he’d be better off making his observations from behind the camera. C- -OG
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