Michael Sauter
April 11, 1997 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Secret Agent

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
runtime
95 minutes
performer
Patricia Arquette, Madeleine Carroll, Christopher Hampton, Joseph Conrad, John Gielgud, Bob Hoskins, Peter Lorre
director
Christopher Hampton
genre
Mystery and Thriller, Drama

We gave it a C+

Joseph Conrad’s densely plotted novel comes off as merely dense in the hands of writer-director Christopher Hampton (Carrington). As a British merchant who spies on expatriate anarchists for czarist Russia, Hoskins would seem to be ideally cast; when his amoral mole bungles a bomb plot, causing terrible consequences, we await an emotionally naked dark night of the soul. Yet for all his furtive angst, Hoskins never gets near the heart of his character’s crisis of conscience, nor is he helped by Hampton’s flashback-filled narrative, which fritters away all tension on the way to a contrived tragic ending. Small wonder this dour bit of business got lost among brighter, shinier holiday releases. Similar obscurity awaits on video shelves. C

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