Frantic

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FRANTIC, a Hitchcockian thriller from 1988, directed by Roman Polanski, was co-written by Polanski and frequent collaborator Gérard Brach, then doctored, sans credit, by Jeff Gross and Robert Towne. Harrison Ford, 45, who’d extended his dramatic range beyond adventure epics with his excellent work in Witness and The Mosquito Coast, stars. He’s matched up with Emmanuelle Seigner, 19, “introduced” here by Polanski, who not only put her in five other films (as of 2019) but also married her.

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Arriving in Paris for a conference, jetlagged American doctor ‘Richard Walker’ (Ford) falls asleep in his hotel room. He wakes to find his accompanying wife (Betty Buckley) has gone missing. Indifferent responses from consular officials and local police add frustration to fear; he sets out on his own to piece together clues. Connecting the dots leads to vixenish hipster ‘Michelle’ (Seigner), the drug culture, smuggling, murder, espionage and stakes that just keep on escalating.

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The first half works quite well, with neat observational bits of culture clash, then the likelihood and behavioral holes appear, and tonal wobbles weaken the whole. Reviews were qualified-positive, but it didn’t catch fire with the masses; placing 58th in the States with a gross of $17,600,000 not enough to cover a $20,000,000 expenditure. It did do better elsewhere, chiefly in France. Not helped by Ennio Morricone’s lackluster scoring, and a dreary visual palette.

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Interesting, but unfulfilling. Once critics have declared someone a genius (default letting you know they’re clued in to that special auteur elixir), it’s amusing to see them compelled to contort when trying to excuse middling as masterful. Ford’s fine, the set-pieces show flair, and Seigner can Eiffel a tower, but midway through this piffle, its logic becomes absent as waiter courtesy in a bistro. Polanski nails unease, but when it comes to blending that with humor he tends to favor two left feet. With Gérard Klein, John Mahoney, David Huddleston. 120 minutes.

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