Affliction 2.0 stars

A legacy-of-abuse tragedy with heavy psychologizing and moralizing -- altogether as chilly as its upstate New Hampshire locale during deer-hunting season. It showcases ferociously fine work from Nick Nolte as the figurehead policeman of a sleepy small town, not unlike the Stallone character in Copland, who convinces himself that a deadly hunting mishap in his bailiwick is in fact premeditated murder. As if his mind were not already overoccupied with the death of his mother, a custody fight over his sulky teenage daughter, and a nagging toothache. (Nolte's range of expressions for this last affliction is endlessly inventive.) Fine work, too, if lighter in load, from Sissy Spacek as the hero's comforting but uncommitted girlfriend, and from James Coburn as his boozing and terrorizing father, as unredeemedly nasty a character as you could find among life-sized humans. (The blackened hair, grainy photography, and jiggly camera are not enough to disguise his age in the flashbacks.) The scene in which Nolte and Spacek, unannounced, drop in on his parents' farm and discover for themselves, with no help and only minor hindrance from his father, the frozen body of his mother in bed, makes a noteworthy contribution to the variety of human experiences. And of cinematic experiences as well. There are other interesting bits and pieces, though they don't quite add up to a whole. Based on a novel by Russell Banks, author also of The Sweet Hereafter; with Willem Dafoe and Mary Beth Hurt; written and directed by Paul Schrader. 1998.

Duncan Shepherd

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