Frantic (1988)

frantic

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Where is his wife?

Dr. Richard Walker (Harrison Ford) and his wife Sondra (Betty Buckley) travel to Paris where he is to take part in a medical conference. They find when they get to the hotel room that they have a suitcase that looks like theirs, but is the wrong one. They call the mistake into baggage claims, but think nothing more of it. As Richard takes a shower his wife gets a call and then disappears. When Richard gets out of the shower he can’t find her anywhere. Asking around he finds some clues that leads him to believe that she was kidnapped and that it may have something to do with the mysterious suitcase.

The film starts out well with an interesting premise and some good Hitchcockian touches, but eventually it becomes just another conventional thriller that gets overblown and is full of loopholes. One that really annoyed me the first time I saw it has to do with Richard going to a local bar to ask if anyone has any information. He does this twice and both times a bar patron that is sitting next to him overhears the conversation and comes up with a crucial bit of information. If this were to happen once it would be considered a really lucky break, but to happen twice makes it seem too convenient and coincidental. However, the biggest plot hole is when the bad guys come to the hotel to kidnap the wife and hold her for ransom until they get their suitcase when instead they should have just taken the suitcase since it was RIGHT THERE to begin with.

Ford’s brash demeanor doesn’t seem particularly right for the part. Normally he can get away with it and even make it charming in a caustic sort of way, but here it doesn’t work. I did like that everything is seen from his point of view and the viewer is as perplexed as he is about the circumstances. One part has him crumpling up a piece of paper and eating it and I kept wondering how many takes they made him go through on that one before they got it right.

Emmanuelle Seigner, who at the time was director Roman Polanski’s girlfriend, comes off best. The two married about a year after the film was released and now 23 years and 2 kids later they are still a couple. She plays Michelle who Richard meets along the way and helps him find the bad guys with her inside information. I liked her youthful appeal and the contrasting ages and perspectives between her and Ford’s character make their scenes together interesting. However, the punk outfit she wears does nothing for her and looks tacky and at this point woefully out of style.

The on-location shooting in Paris helps give the film an extra appeal. I realize this is mainly because of Polanski’s exile there, but it is to the film’s benefit. I liked how the viewer mainly just sees the street scenes and local pubs and roadways giving the whole thing a sort of tourist perspective.

There is one exciting and very well filmed sequence showing Richard walking on a narrow and steep rooftop in order to get into Michelle’s apartment that proves to be the film’s most intense moment. Otherwise this thing never clicks and tends to get less suspenseful as it goes on. For basic entertainment it is okay, but there is little if any payoff. This pales badly alongside Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’avventura, which is another film with pretty much the same premise, but instead that one takes things in a much more offbeat, fascinating, and mind-expanding direction.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: February 26, 1988

Runtime: 1Hour 59Minutes

Rated R

Director: Roman Polanski

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

2 responses to “Frantic (1988)

  1. Nice review in which I tend to mostly agree with you although I might up this to a 7 out of 10. I actually discovered this movie in a thrift store a few months back and took a chance on it. It’s an enjoyable view for all the reasons you said and yes, Emmanuelle Seigner is the breath of fresh air that drives this film. I also liked the last 20 minutes in general as it reaches it’s climax and the scene by the river at the end plays it all out nicely. Not a bad film by any means.

  2. Joseph Kearny

    Passable thriller with little original about it; Polanski’s merely marking time.

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