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THE RICH MAN’S WIFE

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, March 1, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here’s another title that I really don’t think fans are clamoring for, but which Kino Lorber nonetheless has rewarded with a Blu-ray upgrade. My review was published in the Deseret News on Sept. 13, 1996.

As you might suspect from those over-the-top television ads, "The Rich Man's Wife" is a predictably contrived and somewhat silly murder mystery. But it does have a few exciting set pieces, along with a knockout supporting performance that handily steals the show.

Halle Berry stars, telling the story (shown as a lengthy flashback) to a pair of sardonic Los Angeles police detectives (Charles Hallahan and Frankie Faison, amusing in their banter and determined in their work).

A suspect in her husband's murder, Berry says she's innocent, and tells the cops that she loved her husband (Christopher McDonald), although he was an alcoholic workaholic and a shameless womanizer.

     

  Halle Berry, Peter Greene, 'The Rich Man's Wife'

As she tells it, Berry meets up in a rural bar with a psycho (Peter Greene, the villain in "The Mask"). He flirts with her and then offers to kill her husband. She is aghast, and when Greene tries to rape her, she fires a handgun in his direction, grazing his temple.

Some time later, back in Los Angeles, Berry and McDonald have made up. Things are going better between them — but Greene shows up and brutally kills McDonald, shooting him repeatedly on a rainy night in a children's playground. "Why won't you die?" Greene pleads during this lengthy, most unpleasant sequence (obviously inspired by "Reservoir Dogs"). Naturally, he uses Berry's gun.

Greene threatens to tell the cops that she put him up to it unless she pays him $30,000. That's not much money for a woman who is supposed to be rolling in millions — Greene doesn't know that the money is tied up in probate because McDonald didn't sign a will and Berry did sign a prenuptial agreement. But, of course, more than the money, Greene simply wants to terrorize Berry.

There's also a subplot with Berry's extramarital lover (Clive Owen), who isn't as innocent as he seems. And, late in the film, Owen's ex-wife enters the picture, played by the hilarious Clea Lewis (the ditsy and annoying Audrey in the TV sitcom "Ellen"). Lewis is so terrific — in just three brief scenes — that you may find yourself wishing the film was about her instead of Berry.

     

   Clive Owen, Halle Berry, 'The Rich Man's Wife'

To be fair, Berry is an appealing performer, but in this role she's always running around or screaming or drawing a gun, and the complexities necessary to make her character work in the context of this plot just don't come across. A sense of humor might have helped.

What doesn't help is the implausible plotting of writer-director Amy Holden Jones ("Love Letters," the screenplays for "Indecent Proposal," "Beethoven"), which comes complete with a surprise twist at the end. (You may grin, but you won't want to think about it too much.)

Worse, the story is told entirely from Berry's point of view, but there are scenes depicting interactions between characters that her character simply could not know about.

On the other hand, since Berry is telling the story, perhaps all those plot holes can be explained away very simply: She lied.

"The Rich Man's Wife" is rated R for a couple of brutal killings, an attempted rape, quite a bit of profanity and semi-nude photos of Berry.