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'Beautiful Creatures': Deliciously Bad

By Stephen Hunter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 20, 2001


    'Beautiful Creatures' Rachel Weisz in "Beautiful Creatures." (DNA)
Do you like 'em dark and nasty, with a guilty giggle or two? Do you like 'em with sinister bends, stunning twists and, just for the peppy fun of it, the staccato perforations of gunplay? Do you like it when the corpses bleed out in a raspberry puddle on the floor, amid a litter of plasma-tainted small bills and cartridge casings?

They don't make 'em like that much any more, but then there's the Scottish almost-noir "Beautiful Creatures," which might well have been called "Guns and Dolls."

Put this one in a category with several other smarmy-violent of-a-piece gems like "Shallow Grave," the bad-lesbo noir "Bound," the creepy-wonderful "The Last Seduction." I don't think it's quite as good as any of those, but if the safe fare of today like "Bridget Jones's Diary" and "Spy Kids" is for all good little boys and girls, then "Beautiful Creatures" is for all of us bad little boys and girls.

Dorothy (un-beautiful Susan Lynch) and Petula (beautiful Rachel Weisz) come from different parts of town and have little in common. One is a scraggly brunette in bad hippie clothes who hasn't seen a dentist in a bit, the other a svelte party doll with Marilyn's platinum hair and Julia's sleek bod. But they do share this: thoroughly rotten boyfriends. Rotten as in abusive, violent, stupid, nasty, .357 Magnum-bait.

One night, cementing the parallelism of their fetid, dominated lives, each gets beaten silly by the creep she sleeps with. Coincidence (Dorothy has left hers, Petula is getting a roadside whipping from hers) brings them together, and homicide unites them. It's Dorothy who stops Petula's Brian from his fist tattoo; unfortunately she does this with a lead pipe. When he comes to (in Dorothy's bathtub, where the gals have dragged him to recuperate), he rises in a rage, loses his balance on the slippery porcelain and in a trice has skulled himself into the next world on the base of the loo.

More coincidence propels the plot. Dorothy's dog chews off Brian's finger; she sends it in an envelope to Petula at the office, where it is seen by Brian's older brother Ronnie (Maurice Roeves), who interprets it to mean that Brian has been kidnapped and is being held for ransom. The sum of a million pounds (which wealthy, possibly thuggish Ronnie has) is mentioned, then quickly becomes 2 million pounds. A lascivious, corrupt cop, Detective Hepburn (Alex Norton) gloms onto the case; then Dorothy's psycho-junkie boyfriend Tony (Iain Glen) returns and joins in. Soon enough that couple of million quid is floating around, two basically innocent, victimized women are clinging together for protection, and three very skanky, sexist Bluto-men are stalking them.

What's a girl to do? I know: Why not kill them all?

It's not that simple. And a good deal of the dark pleasure of the mordantly deviant "Beautiful Creatures" – written by cleverboots Simon Donald – is the audacity and panache that Dorothy and Petula discover within themselves as they improvise toward a plan that will leave them with all of the money and none of the men.

Possibly too much that happens in the film is impelled by that same kind of coincidence that figures so significantly in the setup; but then at some level, it's not meant to be taken realistically, but more as a post-feminist fairy tale. The director, Bill Eagles, is very cool at creating a visual texture that suggests a nighttime fantasy world through stylizations and a provocative, slightly unreal color palette. The men are suitably monstrous without quite being believable. The two women relate brilliantly, and the movie has lots of fun creating an erotic subtext between them, ripe with the suggestion that if they make off with skins intact, they will discover themselves becoming very close friends indeed. I don't know about you, but I always like that in a movie.

"Beautiful Creatures" (88 minutes) is rated R for extreme violence.


Copyright 2001 The Washington Post Company

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