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LANTANA

Here's an Anthony LaPaglia movie in which he uses his real Australian accent and proves the standout of an ensemble cast. This film from Ray Lawrence (Bliss) has LaPaglia putting in a full-force performance as Leon Zat -- a dissatisfied unpleasant cop and family man. Although laudably ambitious, the drama often rings tinny. Leon links with Jane in a hotel-room quickie. His wife, Sonja, sees psychotherapist Valerie, whose marriage to John was shaken by the murder of their daughter. Through Jane, we meet earthy proles Paula and Nik. One character disappears and is feared murdered. Leon takes charge of the investigation, and the whodunit twist provides some needed propulsion. Moreover, the case forces Leon to look into that deep-dark-truthful mirror and re-evaluate his definitions of strength and honesty. Although it's LaPaglia's show, Kerry Armstrong and Rachael Blake bring a nice wild-card quality to Sonja and Jane. But Barbara Hershey and Geoffrey Rush, as Valerie and John, fail to rise above their melodramatic subplot. At the Avon.

By Betsy Sherman

Issue Date: February 22 - 28, 2002