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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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'Whiteout': The latest stinker from Joel Silver

September 11, 2009 |  4:43 pm

The verdict from America's loyal if ever-shrinking cadre of film critics is virtually unanimous: Another Joel Silver movie has arrived at the multiplexes and, to quote a blurb from the San Jose Mercury News that I can bet you won't see in the ads this weekend, it is "shockingly, shockingly bad." The Dominic Sena-directed film stars Kate Beckinsale as a homicide investigator in Antarctica, but you can't entirely blame her for the hokey dialogue, the sloppy, often impenetrable story points and, of course, a gratuitous nude scene (in the first minutes of the movie, so you can't possibly miss it) where Beckinsale strips naked and hops into a shower.

Whiteout_poster Having a bankable actress get naked is something of a trademark in a Silver film, going back to "Swordfish," a 2001 thriller, also directed by Sena, whose sole highlight was a nude scene from Halle Berry. According to widespread reports that Berry later disputed, Silver paid the actress an extra $500,000 for the nude scene, with Sena joking to the New York Daily News that the scene was worth "$250,000 per breast."

So how bad is "Whiteout"? So bad that it's now the leader of the pack for the worst-reviewed movie of the year, having scored a minuscule 7 at Rotten Tomatoes, which aggregates movie reviews from around the country. It's a wonder that Warner Bros., where Silver has his deal, still keeps the producer afloat, since he's done more to tarnish the Warners shield than anyone since Elie Samaha, producing a long string of critical turkeys that include "Orphan," "Speed Racer," "Fred Claus," "The Brave One" and "The Invasion."

The critics agreed that one of the unintentionally hilarious recurring events in the movie involves another clunky Silver touch, where each character tells us what we're seeing on the screen as it's happening. As our reviewer Glenn Whipp put it: "This unwelcome commentary is so overdone that it becomes, by the end, an invitation for audience participation. All together now: It's a body! Looks like it's been shot in the head!"

But let me give the last word to the New York Times' A. O. Scott, who -- clearly grasping at something that might keep him awake until the end of the movie -- noted that Silver's vision of Antarctica was strangely devoid of its most familiar icons: those cute tuxedo-clad penguins. As Scott put it: "I thought every movie about Antarctica had to have penguins. Has someone done market research proving otherwise? Is the whole penguin thing over? Or maybe the penguins read the script and told their agents to pass. Smart birds."

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