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Urbania
cast: Daniel Futterman, Alan Cummins, Samuel Ball, Lothaire Bluteau, and Josh Hamilton

director: Jon Matthews

103 minutes (18) 2000
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
TLA DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Gary McMahon
Urbania starts with a sort of montage, featuring shots of New York City workers and residents going about their day, with voiceovers waxing philosophical about certain well known urban legends - like the one about the guy who, after a one-night stand, wakes up in a bath filled with ice to discover that his liver has been harvested.

These opening moments are interesting, and serve to snag the viewer's interest and make him or her wonder exactly what kind of film they are about to watch. Is it a weird arty thriller about urban legends, a neo-noir, even a meandering piece of intellectual nonsense? None of the above...

Once the film settles down, we meet Charlie (Daniel Futterman), a gay man (and, yes, his sexuality is important; that's why I mentioned it) who seems to spend his life listening to people's stories just to escape his own head for a while. Charlie is haunted by some kind of unspecific past even - and event that we will come to learn more about as the plot progresses. Over time, we begin to understand that Charlie is looking for redemption as much as he is searching for love. Disappointingly, though, what starts out as a promising exercise in big city paranoia soon reverts to a standard revenge scenario, albeit setup around a very serious issue.

The film's structure in interesting: everything is played out using a series of disjointed flashbacks, which certainly adds tension and builds suspense. However, the direction is so flat and uninspired that we feel rather alienated and detached from what's going on. What could have been a truly scary, unsettling piece of work fails to engage the audience, and ultimately you finish the film feeling a little let down. There's an attempt at a big emotional ending, but even this feels cold and unconnected when it should have been a showstopper.

Futterman gives a half decent performance, but the supporting cast (including Alan Cummins) fail to live up to even these standards - a state of affairs which further handicaps the film and makes it rather self-aware. Urbania certainly isn't a bad film; it's just that it could have been so much better, so much stronger and compelling. I'd class it as an interesting failure, and would encourage anyone interested enough to investigate it for themselves.
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