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Sin (March 7/04)

After an opening half hour that's unbelievably confusing and disorienting, it's nothing short of a miracle that the remainder of Sin manages to entertain. Though the story is fairly simple - a man is out for revenge after his sister is raped - director Michael Stevens inundates us with disorienting camera tricks and unpleasant images of sleaze.

Ving Rhames stars as Eddie Burns - a former cop who's apparently content living a quiet life on a ranch, but finds himself forced back into the world of crime after learning that his sister (played by Kerry Washington) was gang-raped by three men. As Eddie begins to investigate, he discovers that a nefarious porn producer (Gary Oldman) is behind the attack and has very personal reasons for wanting to hurt Eddie.

Nothing makes sense in Sin initially, though the pieces do begin to fall into place once the story gets going. But Stevens' decision to bombard the viewer with seemingly random sequences is certainly perplexing, as it forces us to come to our own conclusions regarding certain events (ie the manner in which Eddie's sister finds herself in Oldman's company). Not helping matters is the fact that the majority of these characters behave in a manner that isn't realistic in the slightest; it's clear almost instantly that their actions are dictated by the plot's movements. Eddie's sister is the most obvious example of this, acting like a helpless victim one minute and a self-hating junkie the next (it seems absurd that she'd berate herself in front of a mirror with a camera rolling on the other side, but that moment exists solely to trick Eddie into believing she was talking to him).

But once the revenge storyline kicks in, the film finally becomes watchable - though Stevens' odd directorial choices remain. Rhames, playing a character with more than a passing resemblance to Marsellus from Pulp Fiction, does a fantastic job of embodying a tough guy with but one goal - punishing those responsible for his sister's rape. Oldman gives an uncharacteristically restrained performance for much of the movie, although he does finally go over-the-top towards the end. The script, by Tim Willocks, feels like a first draft that somehow managed to squeak by without any changes. How else can one explain an absolutely ludicrous plot twist that sees Eddie trick Oldman's character in confessing to everything - in front of a hidden camera, no less - only to just leave him, without tying him up or knocking him unconscious? This is followed by a bizarre car chase through a desert and a climactic showdown involving quicksand (yes, quicksand).

And yet, the movie still remains semi-entertaining - albeit on a trashy, Aaron Spelling-soap-opera type of level. Rhames and Oldman are very effective in their respective roles, primarily because they're capitalizing on the stereotypes that they're associated with (Rhames=bad-ass, Oldman=sleazeball). It's easy enough to see why Sin didn't receive a theatrical release, but on the small screen with lowered expectations, the film works.

out of