Movie Review By Andrea Chase
I have it on excellent authority that David Brin's novel, "The Postman," about a clever post-apocalyptic drifter in a world where life is once again nasty, brutish, and short, is an excellent read. An opinion borne out by the first two hours of Kevin Costner's sweeping screen version. Alas, there are three hours to this flick.
Costner, full of self-conscious aw shucks charm, plays the drifter. His nemesis is a neo-fascist army that's been roaming the land terrorizing what's left of the population since the collapse of the central government. They draft Costner but he manages a getaway. Lost and cold, he finds a postman's skeleton wearing a very warm jacket. He steals the clothes and the mailbag and invents a scam to obtain food and shelter from unfriendly town folk. He spins them an impromptu yarn about the Restored States of America of which he is the first emissary and unintentionally, he touches a nerve. They begin to hope that their isolation is finally going to be a thing of the past. That the old way of life will return.
Then, for reasons that don't bear going into, Costner and leading-lady Olivia Williams find themselves snowed-in in a mountain cabin and what had been a fairly solid, fairly interesting story grinds to a painful halt. The interlude is absolutely necessary from the narrative point of view, but it also points up the fact that Williams, though a lovely creature, is a charisma vacuum. The rest of the film, a plodding build up to the final showdown between Kev and the bad guys becomes an over-the-top would-be heroic spectacle that is more parody than parable.
When the showdown finally does arrive, it's Kev and head fascist Will Patton mano-a-mano. The extended grappling sequence is remarkable for being more erotic than the love scene with Williams, as well as for the philosophical discussion that takes place between the choke holds and half-nelsons.
Patton is great as the neo-fascist leader, an ex-copy machine salesman turned born-again military dictator with the aid of a self-help manual. He has a calm, reasonable persona that makes the sociopath in him extra creepy. He almost saves the film. But in the end, he, like the film itself, is overcome by pretentious narration, overblown slo-mo that would be embarrassing as Super Bowl coverage, and an overwrought heraldic score that undermines rather than underscores the action.
Do yourself a favor, read "The Postman" instead of wasting three hours seeing it.
© 1998 - Andrea Chase - Air Date: 12/31/97
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