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The Wisdom of Crocodiles

Rated [R], 98 minutes
Starring Jude Law, Elina Löwensohn, Timothy Spall
Screenplay by Paul Hoffman
Directed by Po Chih Leong

IN SHORT: A different kind of vampire story.

"Do you trust me?" says the young, debonair, pretty boy English-accented man of Bulgarian descent, Steven Grlscz (Jude Law) which, of course, the lovely object of his affections does. Steven saved Maria Vaughn (Kerry Fox) from suicide under the wheels of a London tube train. He has seduced her and wormed his way into her love life by drawing pencil portraits of her and treating her as a proper English gentleman should. When it is finally "the time" to bring her into his bedroom, complete with a flirtatious tease before the lovemaking begins, she is all a twitter. She has no reason to suspect, and neither do we, that it will be their only intimate time together.

What happens, though hinted at above, is far more gruesome and shocking. Indeed, I'm not spilling anything -- that's how off the wall the killing is. And that is the reason why The Wisdom of Crocodiles is off to a smashing start. We don't understand the reasons for the killing. We put together the pieces that indicate that this is not the first. We see all the machinations lay out to lure the next victim into the web. All the why we want to know WHY?

And that is the problem with The Wisdom of Crocodiles, a story which places itself at a level of intellectual superiority so far above the average person that even the press notes inadequately explain what the hell the film's title is supposed to mean. (It's a quote by the writer Francis Bacon -- "It is the wisdom of crocodiles that shed tears when they would devour." -- we're guessing that Bacon assumed that crocs felt guilt before a dinner kill, though there's little in Jude Law's performance to deliver that feeling until the last act of the movie). It's a love story. It's a gruesome thriller. It's a ponderous piece of moviemaking.

While we wait to see what is at the root of this killing frenzy, there is the cop (Timothy Spall) who has suspicions and a gang who conveniently shows up a number of time so that Steven can rescue said cop from said gang. Simultaneously, Steven is growing an affair with a new, potential victim, Anne Levels (Elina Löwensohn). The detective subplot and the love story both take equal time on screen, equally balancing each other. What should be a growing level of tension leading up to, well, you take your choice of a bust or a kill, doesn't.

What happens is neither of those things, but by the time we got there, we didn't care. A good start slows to a snail's pace and that strips the story of everything it needs.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Wisdom of Crocodiles, he would have paid...


Midweek rental level. Of all the elements that make up the film, the cinematography is gorgeous. Oliver Curtis was the D.P. but not even his fine work can do anything to help this plodder.

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