Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel


Directed by Barry Levinson. Written by Paul Attanasio from the novel by Michael Crichton. Produced by Levinson & Crichton. Photography, Anthony Pierce-Roberts. Production design, Neil Spisak. Music, Ennio Morricone. Cast: Michael Douglas, Demi Moore, Donald Sutherland, Roma Maffia, Caroline Goodall, Dennis Miller, et al. A Warner Bros. release. 125 min. Rated R (heavy sexuality, coarse language).

In showbiz language when you say that a movie has legs it means that it will go places and sell many tickets. Business analysts say that "Disclosure" will probably have such legs, but they are not guaranteed like Demi Moore's.

The film has something for everyone and covers many areas. It is primarily a techno-thriller within an expose of business ruthlessness. It also deals with the role reversal of man-harasses-woman. It has some socially relevance, but is pulp fiction too.

"Disclosure" is a high-concept film within a high-tech frame. High-concept denotes a story that can be summarized rapidly. Vindictive executive Moore first robs executive Douglas of his expected promotion -- thus becoming his boss -- then accuses him of harassment after he's evaded her sexual advances. When Douglas counterattacks, she tries to sabotage him. When this fails she tries to discredit him professionally.

Some details are credible. Happily married paterfamilias Douglas works for a Seattle-based high-tech computer firm that is about to merge with another, mostly thanks to Douglas and his crew inventing a technical gizmo. Some specifics are none too credible, like the coincidence of Moore and Douglas having been hot and heavy lovers years ago. And others are even less understandable. Why is beauteous, single and manipulative Moore so persistent in her (presumably one time only) desire for Douglas who, whether or not he looks his 50 years, has about as much sex appeal as a computer's mouse?

The film gets off to a slow start by stretching out credits distractingly throughout the opening scenes, while techno-jargon is mumbled, realistically but rather confusingly for most viewers.

With the sex sequence though, after Moore meets Douglas in her office, no viewer will have trouble understanding the ins and outs of a variant of date-rape.

There is not as much exposure of flesh as in some other films, but the carefully choreographed sexual encounter is verbally and visually as explicit and blatant as they come this side of an NC-17 rating. The sequence is realistically handled as the unwilling Douglas resists, yields up to a point --he's no eunuch after all, --and puts an end to this duel by taking flight. I would guess that the audience's curiosity is not prurient but one of wondering how far matters can go. While the movie stresses that sexual harassment is more about power than about sex, it does not forget that active hormones too have a life of their own.

This is an equal opportunities picture with the novelty of female-engineered harassment. Still, given that such occurences are statistically low, the film could have stood without one. It might have, instead, played up corporate male-female enmity, jealousy, rivalry or revenge. In fact, beyond that rather original encounter, sex vanishes and the film becomes pure thriller.

Both Moore and Douglas are convincing. Douglas as a Mr. Average in a mega-pickle, is not nuanced, but then he does not need to be. Moore, a dragon lady with an obsessive (pathological?) mix of desire and ambition, has no complexity either, but that's what makes her the villain of the show. She is hissable, a person for whom, in interactive electronics, you might push the "delete" button.

Cleverly, the rather faithful adaptation of the book preempts feminist protests by making some changes, notably by eliminating an unpleasant female reporter and by balancing out Moore's nastiness with a gallery of likable, credible women: Douglas's lawyer wife, his secretary, a high-up member of the firm, employees and especially his lawyer.

The latter is energetically played by Roma Maffia (who might see a lawyer and change her name) as the smartest person of the film, the kind of legal eagle that you'd like to hire when in dire straits. Excellent too are the other players in their not-too-subtle but attention-getting roles.

After Moore's accusations, the emphasis shifts to fascinating mediation hearings for all parties, ad to the mercilessness of big business, its hypocrisy, corruption. shiftiness, multiple crossings, readiness to sacrifice anyone for the sake of money-- an end that justifies any means.

As a techno-thriller --an American specialty-- "Disclosure" keeps building up. Techno-thrillers seldom leave room for character dimensionality. This film is no exception, but then, the script by Paul Attanasio (the Harvard law graduate and film critic turned scriptwriter who earlier wrote "Quiz Show"), is lively, as intelligent as his characters permit, and full of zingy dialogue.

Twists and suspense mount along with power plays, one-upmanship and computer duels that recall a little "Clear and Present Danger." You can, however, guess early on the device that will give beleaguered Douglas his main proof of innocence.

The plot might have stopped earlier in this long movie. Instead, it develops more complications (and some false endings), dubious high-tech shenanigans (like impressive but silly scenes of Virtual Reality), plus some illogicalities --like Douglas outside an exercise room impossibly overhearing a conversation.

The production values and photography are tops, and the use of the wide screen unusually good. The physical, all-glass look inside the firm adds to the tension with fish-bowl lack of privacy which almost dehumanizes and depersonalizes those who work there.

Copyright Edwin Jahiel & The News-Gazette