Friday, April 4, 2008

Sex and Death 101

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Arrival of Mysterious Email Interrupts Reformed Womanizer’s Wedding Plans in Romantic Comedy

Roderick Blank (Simon Baker) never expected to settle down. The confirmed bachelor had been content to parlay his good looks into a neverending string of sexual conquests. But that was before he fell in love with Fiona (Julie Bowen), a beauty for whom he’s willing to end his career as a player.
Then, just when they’re on the verge of marital bliss and set to tie the knot in a week, Rod’s secretary, Trixie (Mindy Cohn), opens up a mysterious email at work addressed to her boss. The letter contains a chronological list of the 101 names of every female he has ever slept with, or will ever sleep with.
After verifying that the first 29 are correct, right up to his fiancée, the handsome executive finds himself in quandary. Is this just an April Fool’s day joke being played on him by his best friend, Lester (Dash Mihok)? If not, who was the clairvoyant that compiled the incriminating scorecard?
Curious, Rod decides to postpone the wedding, sensing that otherwise he might be about to cheat on his bride with 72 different strangers. And sure enough, he suddenly finds himself enjoying “an embarrassment of bitches” in a dizzying string of one-night stands. “The sort of thing only happens in the movies,’ he observes in a distracting self-reference.
But don’t be duped into thinking Sex and Death 101 is just one of those predictable romantic comedies where the guy gets to sow his wild oats before finally wising up to ride off into the sunset with the girl who was meant for him all along. For writer/director Daniel Waters (Happy Campers) has a trick up his sleeve in the form of a fetching femme fatale who goes by the alias Death Nell (Winona Ryder).
The plot thickens when we learn that Nell is an avenging feminist assassin, a self-appointed vigilante who roams around town seducing and slaying known womanizers. The only clues she leaves behind can be found in the cryptic messages (like “Your wounds are deeper than your desires!”) she spray-paints in red on the wall next to the bodies.
What Rod doesn’t know is that Death Nell is somewhere on his list, but under her real name. But so are lesbians, strippers, an 88 year-old grandmother, and a busload of Christian schoolgirls and their driver. So the question becomes, will he cross paths with this sadistic serial killer while working his way towards number 101, or will he abandon his hedonistic indulgence and return to Fiona before disaster strikes?
That is the burning question threaded through Sex and Death 101, a kinky dramedy that is every bit as eerily chilling as it is irreverently funny. Australian-born Simon Baker, who made a big splash as the dashing chap who charmed Sanaa Lathan in Something New, is almost as effective here, narrating the play-by-play as a far less likable leading man. And Winona Ryder, though under gobs of war paint, does a decent job as a vindictive villainess fed up with being the victim of abuse.
A latter-day Casanova meets his match in the reincarnation of Lorena Bobbitt.

Excellent (3.5 stars)
Rated R for profanity and graphic sexuality.
Running time: 116 minutes
Studio: Anchor Bay Entertainment

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