29 October 2010

Retro Review: Swimfan (2002)


2002, 85mins, 12
Director: John Polson
Writer (s): Charles Bohl, Phillip Schneider
Cast includes: Jesse Bradford, Erika Christensen, Kate Burton, Shiri Appleby
UK Release Date: 20th September 2002

Fatal Attraction” has a lot to answer for, not least the lukewarm 2002 thriller “Swimfan”. Directed by John Polson (who would later be responsible for the poorly regarded 2005 horror “Hide and Seek”), “Swimfan” clearly evidences how lazy screenwriting and unconvincing acting can totally sink a movie. Blatantly ripping off the aforementioned “Fatal Attraction” (as was the case with last year’s “Obsessed”); the film is a bewilderingly bland affair, devoid of fresh ideas or any creative zeal.

Ben (Jesse Bradford) has it all; the pretty girlfriend (Shiri Appleby), awesome buddies and a promising high school swimming career. When new girl in town Madison (Erika Christensen) puts the moves on Ben he initially succumbs, enjoying a heated one night stand with his latest acquaintance. However he immediately regrets it, and subtly attempts to remove Madison from his day to day life. Unfortunately she isn’t as willing to disregard their relationship, quickly beginning to display signs of obsessive behaviour toward Ben. As our male protagonist tries harder and harder to distance himself from the attractive stalker he only finds her actions more extreme, until at last people’s lives are placed on the line.

“Swimfan” is lame because it insists on being so derivative, the film seemingly focused on simply stealing thematic ideas and plot points from other superior films. If filmgoers want to enjoy a rewardingly executed trippy teen flick with sexual overtones, then I’d strongly recommend they check out 1999’s “Cruel Intentions” over this boring malarkey. The story pounds along with no atmosphere or personality, content to go through the motions as predictably as possible. Everything from the innocent beginning to the psycho bitch finale is painfully clich├ęd, and its depiction of a young man’s spiral into despair isn’t particularly engaging. The characters are drawn as flat stereotypes (most notably Madison), matching the insipid storytelling blow for blow on the grounds of sheer inanity. It would take a monumental idiot not to see where “Swimfan” is headed after the 10 minute mark.
Polson’s direction does boast some visual flair and interestingly styled quick edits, but his guiding of the story is workmanlike at best. “Swimfan” also suffers from being a completely blunted experience, the PG-13 rating hampering any hope of titillating nudity or disturbing screen violence. Generally these aren’t aspects that outright determine whether a picture is good or bad, but in this sort of flaccid thriller they could only have helped. The big climax is underwhelming and no more inventive than the rest of this laborious effort. Much like the rest of the movie it looks reasonably good, but there is a distinct lack of urgency or threat, ultimately meaning the venture ends on the same unconvincing note with which it commenced.

The performances are weak across the board. Jesse Bradford makes for a soulless and dull hero, whilst Christensen resorts to hammy overacting as the villain. It’s hard to believe that the Christensen sighted here is the same performer who provided such a spirited and saddening turn in 2000’s masterful “Traffic”. The fact her big screen career has waned since the release of “Swimfan” isn’t much of a surprise. Together I can only assume the duo were supposed to exhibit a dangerous and heated chemistry, but in reality it’s the sort of frosty connection one might liken to that of a human nose and dog faeces.

“Swimfan” is a lousy production, and one that deserves to have been forgotten in the eight years since its theatrical release. Ultimately it’s a thriller utterly lacking in excitement or even surprising twists, instead “Swimfan” rather aptly drowns in a pool of its own unimaginative ineptitude.

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2010


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