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Wednesday, October 1, 1997

Kicked in the Head

Posted By on Wed, Oct 1, 1997 at 12:00 AM

"Terrible!" That's what one frustrated preview-goer shouted at the screen as the end credits for Matthew Harrison's Kicked in the Head began to roll. Question is whether that one-word critique might be going too far.

Not if you came to this film expecting anything more than Generation X clichés. You know the drill. Un-hunky young man with bad haircut (Kevin Corrigan) eschews work and undergoes spiritual crisis: "I'm going through a self-destructive period." Decides to write masterwork on meaning of life: "I'm writing a ... what do you call it? ... book." Enter true-blue former girlfriend (Lili Taylor), psychotic pal from the old neighborhood (Michael Rapaport), eccentric scam-artist uncle (James Woods) and postmodern femme fatale (Linda Fiorentino). What fun!

Problem is, that description suggests way more potential than the film is remotely capable of delivering on. As for Woods, and the third-rate James Woods imitation he offers here, he makes it hard to remember that this man was once -- occasionally -- an actor. Fiorentino plays herself playing a woman who'll remind you a little of Linda Fiorentino. Maybe she had something going for her in Last Seduction. What she's brought to this role is a stitched-on headache of a pout that we're supposed to construe -- apparently -- as an existentially correct eroticism. Terrible.

So, what's not terrible? Corrigan is good (given the big nothing he was handed to work with), ditto Rapaport (who shares blame for the script and maybe credit for the film's 3 1/2 funny minutes). And Lili Taylor is brilliant with nowhere to go; makes you wish she could hurry and grow up so she could get out of the Gen X ghetto.

And that -- the cynical ghettoizing of generational stereotypes -- is what makes "terrible" a too-kind estimation of this film. It's as if director Harrison assumed that all he had to do was assemble an appropriately aged cast, write some pseudo-twisted dialogue and then wait for the presumed mushbrains of said demographic cohort to come dutifully trooping into theaters to proclaim him the next budding genius. When are people under 30 going to get credited with a little intelligence or an attention span longer than the average American bowel movement? Not in this terrible picture.

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