Original Sin

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“Original Sin” begins with a close-up of Angelina Jolie’s grotesque lips. She is the heroine of the film and its occasional narrator, and she says, “This is not a love story. But it is a story about love.”

Though that sounds contradictory, it actually makes sense. The film is certainly no love story, as it is completely devoid of romance or chemistry between its two leads. But it is ABOUT love — specifically, about the lengths to which people might go when they are madly in love.

So Jolie’s utterance makes sense. It is the only thing in the movie that does.

Jolie plays a saucy tart named Julia Russell, a Baltimore woman who has exchanged correspondence with Luis Vargas (Antonio Banderas), a wealthy businessman in 1880 Cuba. Luis has invited her to Cuba to marry him — not because he’s in love, but because he wants a wife who is agreeable, pleasant, and of a child-bearing age.

So they get married and then fall in love after all. Things are blissful for two or three seconds, at which point Julia steals all Luis’ money and disappears. And marrying a stranger seemed like such a good idea…!

Turns out Julia wasn’t who she said she was, and Luis isn’t the only one after her: A detective (Thomas Jane) is on the case, too. Luis is obsessed with the woman and can’t stop loving her, despite her injuries to him; the detective seems to have a personal agenda, too.

This is a dull, languid film full of unsurprising plot twists and ludicrous soap opera-style melodrama. Banderas and Jolie speak in over-passionate cadences, making their characters seem even more aloof and unlikable. The last 15 minutes or so plummet into deep, disturbed absurdity. It’s no wonder the film was delayed a year before it was released; MGM is now just cutting its losses and putting it in theaters, hoping to make a few dollars off a handful of poor, hapless souls.

The director is Michael Cristofer, whose only other feature-film credit is 1999’s “Body Shots.” If you had seen that dreadful movie, you would know that it existed only as an excuse to show people talking about and/or having sex. Cristofer has not branched out any. Twenty minutes into “Original Sin,” there is a surprisingly graphic sex scene between Jolie and Banderas. It establishes that Julia and Luis are now passionately in love with each other — and then, once it’s established that, it goes on for a few more minutes.

All things considered, though, admirers of Jolie or Banderas might want to see the film just for that scene. Goodness knows there’s no other reason to watch it.

D+ (; R, abundant nudity, very graphic sex, some mild profanity, some mild violence.)

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