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Normal Life

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Normal Life

Starring: Ashley Judd, Luke Perry
Director: John McNaughton
Rated: R
RunTime: 101 Minutes
Release Date: October 1996
Genres: Action, Drama

*Also starring: Bruce A. Young, Jim True, Dawn Maxey, Penelope Milford, Tom Towles

Review by Dragan Antulov
2½ stars out of 4

John McNaughton didn't have much luck with Croatian film and video distributors. HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER, his best-known film, wasn't released in this part of the world. Those films that had been released haven't fared much better, mostly thanks to Croatian distributors' annoying habit to "creatively" translate movie titles. MAD DOG AND GLORY became ONE WOMAN, TWO MEN while NORMAL LIFE, little known 1996 crime drama, was re- christened into OUTSIDE LAW.

The plot of NORMAL LIFE is inspired by real events that took place in Chicago (and were later covered in TV-movie IN THE LINE OF DUTY: BLAZE OF GLORY). Chris Anderson (played by Luke Perry) is young idealistic policeman who meets factory worker Pam (played by Ashley Judd), falls in love with her and gets married. Their union is hardly match made in heaven because Pam happens to be seriously messed up - she uses drugs, drinks too much, suffers from occasional suicidal outbursts and, last but not least, spends too much. All this becomes unbearable for Chris, especially after he loses his job in police force. Despite Chris doing double shifts as security guard to make ends meet, Andersons are in the vicious circle of credit card debt and close to poverty. In despair, Chris finds simple but dangerous solution - he would use his intimate knowledge of police procedure to conduct series of perfect bank robberies. Plan works and Andersons start to get a slice of "normal" suburban life, but Pam then discovers the source of this new wealth and decides to accompany her husband during robberies, just for the thrill of it.

Just like in HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER, McNaughton gives interesting portrayal of pathological characters. In that he receives great help from Luke Perry. In this film former BEVERLY HILLS 921000 star showed that he was something more than a pretty face and that he indeed could act. Chris Anderson is his most complex and convincing role so far. In it he displays whole variety of emotions and contradictions within the same character - man who takes the very same professional and methodical approach when it comes to enforcing and breaking the law; in the same time this mask of cold professionalism hides fatal vulnerability. Ashley Judd, on the other hand, wasn't that lucky with her character, since Pam Anderson looks more like a walking encyclopaedia of social pathology than someone that could attract seemingly down-to-Earth and no- nonsense character like Chris. McNaughton also spoils generally good impression of the film with "cute" filming techniques and distracting use of punk music. Notion that the materialistic culture of American suburbs contributed to Andersons' crime spree is briefly touched upon and never properly explored. However, despite its prosaic title and almost total obscurity, NORMAL LIFE is quite extraordinary film that shows how the most outrageous stories can spawn from the most banal real life circumstances.

Copyright 2003 Dragan Antulov

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