Friday, August 19, 2011

THE DEVIL'S DOUBLE (2011)

Written by Michael Thomas


Directed by Lee Tamahori


Where & When: Arclight Cinema, Hollywood, CA. August 8, 2011  7:40PM



"The Devil's Double" is based on the true story of Latif Yahia (Dominic Cooper) who had the misfortune of bearing a striking resemblance to Uday Saddam Hussein, (also played by Mr. Cooper) the eldest son of the President of Iraq, Saddam Hussein. Uday, like his father, used body doubles for protection and and was in search of a new body. He attended school with Latif and recalled that everyone said how much the two men looked alike, so Uday makes him an offer that he can't refuse.

After Latif goes through plastic surgery and fitted with dentures to complete the transformation, the life that he once knew is now over. In exchange, Latif can enjoy all of luxuries and the good life that goes with being the "son of The President" but he is warned to keep his hands off of any of the women that Uday has his eye on.

One of Uday's long-time mistresses, Sarrab (Ludivine Sagnier), who is wild and free-spirited, notices that the only difference between the two men is Latif's larger penis. She comes on to him aggressively and while Latif tries to resist, he soon gives in to her charms.

Latif struggles to hang on to what is left of his true self as it's not long before he discovers that Uday Huessin is a drug-addled, unstable and sadistic monster who gets immense pleasure from the torture or murder of anyone who displeases him as well as plucking teenage girls off from the street and using them for his depraved desires. After Latif witnesses Uday crashing a wedding, raping the new bride and because of the shame, kills herself immediately afterwards, he knows he has to get out of this nightmare no matter what the cost.

After Mr.Tamahori made his powerful 1994 debut, "Once Were Warriors", a gritty, independent film about a Maori family in New Zealand, Hollywood  came calling and while the budgets of his subsequent work went up, the quality went way down as he made such gems as the lackluster James Bond flick, "Die Another Day" and the 2005 sequel to "xXx", a critical and box-office flop. "The Devil's Double" is a positive step in the right direction but still doesn't dig nearly deep enough. There was much effort made to concive the seemingly opulent world of Uday Hussen that was actually dark, disturbing and ultra-violent but not nearly enough was paid in creating an emotional connection with Latif or any of the other victims of the deranged lunatic.

Mr. Cooper is quite impressive in both of his wildly different roles as the mild-mannered, Latif and the psychotic, Uday and I'm sure it was challenging, most especially when he had to be Latif, pretending to be Uday and making it clear that this was, in a way, a third character. He is the best thing in this film however, the casting of Anglo actors in leading roles is part of the biggest issue I have with "The Devil's Double". While British actor, Cooper is good but still somewhat problematic in his part but the idea that Ms Sagnier, who is blonde and French, could simply put on a dark wig and heavy black eyeliner to be believable as a Middle Eastern woman is not only insensitive but insulting as there are still so few roles available for people of color. I realize that Hollywood likes to cast name actors in major parts in films but how will that ever happen for ethnic actors if there are not placed in roles, most especially ones that call for them.

"The Devil's Double" is very stylish with an intriguing and shocking story and while there are moments of great film making but ultimately the film ends up being uneven and it's potential is never fully realized