A New York Winter's Tale (PG)

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Review byMatthew Turner19/02/2014

One out of Five stars
Running time: 120 mins

Akiva Goldsman's directorial debut is a gloriously terrible and unintentionally hilarious fantasy drama that is brought down by a nonsensical script, a confusing premise, dreadful dialogue, characters that serve no purpose, bizarre special effects, some woeful accent work from Russell Crowe and an A list cameo that has to be seen to be believed.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by scriptwriter Akiva Goldsman (who, lest we forget, wrote Batman and Robin), A New York Winter's Tale is based on the 1983 novel by Mark Helprin and stars Colin Farrell as Peter Lake, an orphaned thief in 1914 New York who is rescued by a mysterious horse (which he names Horse) while escaping from his former mentor, evil, scar-faced gang leader Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe). With Soames hot on his tail, Peter decides to rob the seemingly deserted New York mansion of publisher Isaac Penn (William Hurt), whereupon he meets and falls madly in love with Penn's consumptive daughter Beverly (Downton Abbey's Jessica Brown Findlay).

However, when Beverly dies in Peter's arms he is devastated and, after a fight with Soames, loses his memory only to reappear a hundred years later in 2014, seemingly without having aged. When he meets journalist Virginia (Jennifer Connelly), she begins to help him solve the mystery of who he is, but unbeknownst to Peter, Soames is also still alive and is out for blood.

The Bad
There is so much that's wrong with A New York Winter's Tale that it's difficult to know where to begin. The biggest problem is its jaw-droppingly nonsensical script, which doesn't bother setting up any explanation for its fantasy elements other than the decidedly unclear "everything is connected by light," and "What if the stars were actually the wings of angels?" (intoned by Brown Findlay's breathily dreamy voiceover).

On top of that, seemingly important characters are introduced and then disappear without trace (Graham Greene's Humpstone John, Maurice Jones' Cecil), the po-faced dialogue is hilariously awful, the audience is required to believe that one normally aging character (played by Eva Marie Saint) is at least 110 years old and there are some bizarre special effects sequences that are completely unexplained in context and are never referred to or repeated.

The Worse
Worse still, the few surprises that the film does have up its sleeve are explicitly telegraphed ridiculously far in advance, robbing the story of any sense of surprise or wonder. In addition, Crowe's scenery-chewing accent is distractingly over-the-top and it's impossible to watch this without feeling sorry for Connelly, but the undisputed what-the-hell-were-you-thinking moment belongs to Will Smith, whose two scene cameo as Lucifer (complete with CGI teeth, a Hendrix t-shirt, earrings and an MC Hammer hair-do) has to be seen to be believed.

Worth seeing?
A New York Winter’s Tale is mind-bogglingly terrible from beginning to end, though it's fair to say that its awfulness is ultimately kind of compelling, so connoisseurs of so-bad-it's-good movies can probably go ahead and add an extra star.

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A New York Winter's Tale (PG)
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Content updated: 26/09/2015 20:59

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