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'Half Moon Street'

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
December 19, 1986


Bob Swaim
Sigourney Weaver;
Michael Caine;
Patrick Kavanagh
Under 17 restricted

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IT'S HER YEAR, and Sigourney Weaver's living dangerously. She goes from "Aliens"-buster to jet-set slattern in an improbable British potboiler called "Half Moon Street." Smug and sexless, the classy actress disgraces herself in a bare-chested performance as a vegetarian prostitute with a Harvard Ph.D.

Dr. Loren Slaughter, we are told, is a woman of the '80s -- jogger, expert in Middle Eastern affairs, call girl. Turn-ons: Perrier with lemon, feminism. Turn-offs: terrorism and smoking. She's a lean, clean good-looker who moonlights for a London escort service to supplement her meager income from a noted research institute. The company serves oil barons, titled Brits and other guys who can't get girls -- much less feminists.

"The men I see don't want a woman. They want an object," says Slaughter to main squeeze Lord Bulbeck, a high-ranking diplomat whose persistent patronage endangers the holistic whore. The plot thickens as spooks, international bankers and terrorists move in on the lovers. Exactly why isn't clear.

Maybe Weaver saw this as a plum part, but "Klute" it's not. Slaughter is a preposterous character taken from a Paul Theroux novella and re-created by director Bob Swaim, an American expatriate who made his mark with "La Balance" -- a Ce'sar-winning thriller about a prostitute, a cop and her pimp. Here Swaim tries his first English-speaking film, a surprisingly stilted, slight and asexual work. Given the subject matter, it should have been titillating, but it comes across as common and coarse.

Sadly, the unwitting Weaver acts an utter fool, but she's not alone in this badly guided, ill-chosen cast. Only costar Michael Caine escapes Swaim's carelessness unscathed, as the starchy Bulbeck who toys with Slaughter when he's not busy brokering world peace. In truth, he's a voyeur to Weaver's agitated exhibitionism.

The worst of the sundry topless scenes finds our hapless hooker furiously pedaling an exercycle, while a Palestinian client snaps photos. She postures like a zaftig sex kitten, but looks more like the Bulimia Foundation poster child. -- Rita Kempley. HALF MOON STREET (R) -- At area theaters.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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