The Bonfire of the Vanities

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De Palma's film of Tom Wolfe's dark, hilarious magnum opus bombed in the States - amid charges of racism - and it's easy to see why. It's norra lorra laffs. Wolfe's book about the inhabitants of the Big Bad Apple has a Dickensian scope and a Faustian dynamic: 'What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole, but lose his soul?' His view of an ethnic pressure-cooker society is ironic and caustic but even-handed. In the movie, simplification and scaling down - plus significant changes in ethnicity - lose the balance. In a twin-track movie, we watch dipso journo Peter Fallow (Willis) - who narrates - rise as adulterous Wall Street trader Sherman McCoy (Hanks) falls. Fallow is put onto a story: a poor Bronx black is a near-fatal hit-and-run casualty. The car turns out to be McCoy's Mercedes - scoop! - and the jackals descend. What De Palma delivers is merely a mediocre yuppy nightmare movie, stylistically flashy but with little pace, bite or pathos. As usual with De Palma, the woman gets shafted (here Griffith as McCoy's mistress). If anything, it's a Hanks 'little boy lost' movie, more in the Big tradition than The Big Tradition.

Release details

Duration: 125 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Brian De Palma
Screenwriter: Michael Cristofer
Cast: Tom Hanks
Bruce Willis
Melanie Griffith
Kim Cattrall
Saul Rubinek
Morgan Freeman
F Murray Abraham
John Hancock
Kevin Dunn
Clifton James
André Gregory
Robert Stephens
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