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If you saw and remember the 2009 Academy Award winning Argentine “The Secret in Their Eyes” you should take a pass on this placid remake; Director Juan Jose Campanella’s taut, stunning thriller still ranks as one of the best psychological studies of vigilante justice ever created. Director Billy Ray’s rendition lacks a spirited scenario, intriguing dialogue and perceptive casting.

The action see- saws between 2002 and 2015; “Jess” (Julia Roberts) and “Ray”, (Chiwetel Ejiofor) FBI investigators, discover the body of a young woman “Carolyn” (Zoe Graham), Jess’s daughter, brutally savaged and killed; the case grows cold, until 2015, when  a retired “Ray” discovers a lead and returns to LA and persuades former infatuation, “Claire” (Nicole Kidman), a District Attorney, to resurrect the old case.

Disturbing, but effective is refashioning sublimely beautiful Julia Roberts into a drab, dour, distraught woman; her daughter informed her life, and her death obliterated her core. Roberts performance is the only reason to sit through painstaking, plodding, listless tale.

Nicole Kidman as “Claire”, lacks true grit, her portrayal is plastic, robotic; her flirtation with Ray, devoid of an atom of chemistry; lacking passion, Kidman delivers her limited lines as if fighting ennui and jet lag.

Chiwetel Ejiofor struggles to imbue “Ray” with the proper combination of angst, guilt and unrequited love; an intelligent actor whose characterization comes close to satisfying writer and directorial dictates.

If “Secret in Their Eyes” was an innovative story it might have fared better,  but fizzles miserably in the shadow of the superb original.

TWO & 1/2 STARS!!


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