Owen Gleiberman
May 10, 1991 AT 04:00 AM EDT

A Kiss Before Dying

Current Status
In Season
94 minutes
Matt Dillon, Sean Young, Rory Cochrane, Diane Ladd, Max von Sydow
James Dearden
James Dearden
Mystery and Thriller

We gave it a D-

In the mid-’60s, Alfred Hitchcock went into decline. His movies became slow and labored, as the technical wizardry that had been so exhilarating before began to show its seams. Yet there’s a legion of film buffs who hold these wheezy efforts in high regard — especially Marnie (1964), a movie so eerily plastic that its artificiality is often taken as a deliberate attempt at ”stylization.” The insanely inept A Kiss Before Dying might have been made by a member of the Marnie cult. With its waxy color scheme and nonexistent pace, the movie is like an homage to Hitchcock’s worst period. Matt Dillon plays a psycho who pushes his fiancée off a ledge — I won’t say why — and then marries her sister. Both women are played by Sean Young, who seems to have founded a whole new school of bad acting. It’s not just that her line readings are flat; it’s that she isn’t quite there — she has the goony imperviousness of a puppet. Dillon has always been a charismatic performer, but he lacks the shifty, fast-talking style to play this sort of duplicitous villain. Despite the Vertigo-esque premise of having him court the ”same” woman twice (and despite writer-director James Dearden’s occasional fancy-camera maneuvers), there are no real tricks to the plot. We simply sit back and watch as Dillon knocks off anyone who could incriminate him. The movie is bereft of suspense, though unlike Marnie, this one is in little danger of being mistaken for a masterpiece. D-

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