The Poet, 2003.
Directed by Paul Hills.
Starring Dougray Scott, Laura Harring, Jürgen Prochnow, Andrew Lee Potts and Erika Marozsán.
A contract killer in Vienna kills a young artist during a hit. After discovering the artists’ work, he promptly falls in love with his grieving sister.
Ever since the outstanding Leon, contract killers in the film world always carry a lot of emotional baggage, usually tucked away next to their folding sniper rifle. For every body dropped, another part of them dies inside. Maybe all film hitmen are just as emotional and vulnerable the camera cuts to the good guys. Or is it just another good idea that’s becoming a tired cliché due to unimaginative overuse? In the 2003 Paul Hill film, The Poet, we learn just how absurd this character device can be.
Andrei (Dougray Scott looking suspiciously like a young Brian Cox) is a hired gun. Pure and simple. During a botched assassination of an important figure in Vienna, Rick (Andrew Lee Potts – hipster) accidentally witnesses Andrei doing the deed and is promptly silenced for good. Andrei discovers that Rick was a talented artist, who’s new exhibition is being opened that same week. Rather taken by the the young creative’s theme of death, our contract killer casually attends the function where he meets Rick’s sister, Paula (Laura Harring, who appears to be stuck in an advert).
Whilst the first act of the film is very promising with its good use of pace and tone, The Poet forgets it’s a thriller and starts to morph into a film noir then into a melodramatic romance. Tension forms when Paula comes closer to finding the identity of her brothers murderer, but it moves rather slowly. By the time the penny drops, I had more than enough time to find her characer truly annoying. It’s a shame her and Rick didn’t trade places. There is a constant air of spoilt smugness about her which clouds over her obvious beauty.
It’s a shame that the rest of the cast isn’t that much of an improvement. Every line feels flat and generic, and some of the scenes just feel clumsy. At one point, Paula accidentally stumbles in front of the path of a speeding lorry in the most unconvincing way. I was left wondering how this served to progress the story, but not as much as the sex scenes. It wasn’t an all out orgy, but I got the impression Hill was putting them in their to hide the cracks (in the story, that is). They went from arbitrarily dirty masturbation cuts, to Barbara Cartland-esque fawning.
The Poet has no idea what it wants to be. A thriller? A drama? A Romance? A soft-core affair? It’s all of them and it’s also not enough to be any of them. A promising cat and mouse film that ends up cheesier than expected.
Will Preston is a freelance writer from Portsmouth. He writes for various blogs (including his own website) and makes short films.