Movie Review – Tape (2001)

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Director: Richard Linklater

Writer: Stephen Belber (adapted from his own stage play).

Starring: Ethan Hawke (Vince), Robert Sean Leonard (Jon Salter), Uma Thurman (Amy Randall)

What a tiny little gem! Just 3 characters and a single hotel room brewed into a fantastic moral thriller that keeps you riveted at the edge of your seat for an hour and twenty four minutes. That’s quite a feat.

Yes, it’s all talking heads, as is the case with all scripts adapted from stage plays. But Ethan Hawke (at the time married to Uma Thurman in real life) brings an electrifying suspense to the script with his no-holds-barred acting.

And what’s more, Robert Sean Leonard keeps up with Hawke at the same level of competence. In the traditional blow-by-blow boxing broadcasts they often use the phrase “pound for pound.” In this unexpected surprise of an adult drama, Leonard similarly matches Hawk “beat by beat” to produce a delicious dramatic feast.

Add to this solid brew Uma Thurman, in one her probably most dramatic appearances. When she joins the duo, the suspense is ratcheted up to an even higher level. Lovely Uma, whom I was sick and tired of watching in all those Tarantino-inflicted bimbo-with-a-sword roles, is unleashed in this film to prove all her artistic bona fides and boy, does she deliver!

“Tape” proves that, in this day and age of $50-to100 million dollar films, you do not really need bank-busting special effects and production values to turn out an engaging dramatic work. But then perhaps it’s also not easy to find a script with the kind of scathing high-voltage dialog that Stephen Belber came up with. Top notch writing blossoms into 4th of July fireworks in the hands of a good director and three solid gold actors.

Story in a nutshell: Vince-the-Loser proves that his high school friend Jon-the-Achiever has got nothing over him when it comes to moral rectitude, and their mutual high school girlfriend (turned Deputy DA) Amy couldn’t agree more.

Rent this perfect little movie and enjoy the exhilaration of an art work crafted just right. An enthusiastic 9 out of 10.

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