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THE CLEARING

For a guy with so much clout in the independent film world, Robert Redford makes a lot of bad movies. His latest, from first-time director Pieter Jan Brugge, seems at first inexplicable. Inspired by an actual notorious crime in the Netherlands, it opens as a standard kidnapping tale. Wealthy Pittsburgh businessman Wayne Hayes (Redford in a Donald Trump pompadour) has coffee by the pool with his wife, Eileen (Helen Mirren), heads off to the office, and never returns. Downsized loser Arnold Mack (Willem Dafoe) has snatched him and is holding him for ransom. Two story lines are intercut: first, Mack marching Wayne through the woods and chatting with him about a variety of topics, including class differences; and second, Eileen helping the FBI find Wayne before itís too late, during the course of which we learn that he hasnít been a model husband. Not exactly headline news (though apparently it was on the Dutch networks for almost a year), and the only real twist or suspense or depth arises out of your assumption that the two story lines occur simultaneously. Brugge plays with this convention cleverly but gratuitously, and thatís the sole fun to be had in The Clearing. (91 minutes)

BY PETER KEOUGH

Issue Date: July 2 - 8, 2004
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