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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Affliction

Starring: Nick Nolte, James Coburn
Director: Paul Scrader
Rated: R
RunTime: 113 Minutes
Release Date: January 1998
Genres: Drama, Suspense

*Also starring: Sissy Spacek, Willem Dafoe, Mary Beth Hurt, Jim True, Marian Seldes, Sean McCann, Wayne Robson, Charles Powell

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Review by Susan Granger
2½ stars out of 4

Despite its superb performances, this is a bleak film about one of life's dissolute losers. Set in a tiny New Hampshire town in the dead of winter, Nick Nolte is the local cop and snow-plower who's brow-beaten by the town's real-estate power broker, unhappily divorced from his wife, and painfully alienated from his pre-teen daughter. Except for his waitress girl-friend, Sissy Spacek, no one wants to be around him, even his drunk, sadistically violent and emotionally abusive father, James Coburn, who allowed his mother to freeze to death in their isolated farmhouse. As the story unfolds, solemnly narrated by his younger brother, Willem Dafoe, we find out how he came to be who he is and why, when a local union boss is accidentally killed in a deer-hunting accident, he is told to just look the other way - if he wants to keep his job. Instead, he indulges his conspiracy theories involving foul play and discovers some devastating truths about himself, his past, and his future. Adapted from a novel by Russell Banks, this sanity-to-madness saga should be more emotionally affecting than it is, but writer/director Paul Schrader ("Taxi Driver," "Raging Bull") invests so much coldly calculated gloom, doom, and foreboding into every cruel scene that there are few highs and lows. From the beginning, Nolte's life is one of tortured, desperate rage. With no self-esteem, he is spiritually adrift and neurotic, unable to maintain a relationship with anyone. In short, he's a wreck. His life is in shambles. All his dark angst is symbolized by a persistent, throbbing toothache which he suffers throughout. Both Nick Nolte and James Coburn deliver remarkable performances, but on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Affliction" is a desolate, uncompromising 6. One of the most harsh, depressing movies of the season.

Copyright 2000 Susan Granger

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