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MOVIE REVIEW: Star-studded ‘360’ can’t put the pieces together just right

360

(R)

2 and 1/2 out of 4 stars

If you take a look at the "360" movie poster, you'll only see images of Anthony Hopkins, Jude Law, Rachel Weisz and Ben Foster. If these people were the only principal performers in this film it would be great news but that's not the case. They're collectively just one-third of an otherwise mostly unknown ensemble cast who all get equal screen time. It's not exactly bait-and-switch marketing but it's close. And there's also that pesky, doomed late-August release date thing.

Based loosely on the 1897 play "Reigen" (better known as "La Ronde") by the Austrian dramatist Arthur Schnitzler, it is the fourth screen adaptation of the work and, like all of the others, it isn't great, but it's not all that bad either. The best part of the play lies not so much in its content but rather its structure. Without it, there would never have been "Short Cuts," "Crash," "Magnolia," "Nashville," "Babel," "Traffic," "Syriana," "2 Days in the Valley" or dozens of other films with lots of loosely-connected characters and fragmented plot threads.

Considering the resumes of the two filmmakers and the on-screen talent, "360" should have been much better. On paper, writer Peter Morgan ("The Last King of Scotland," "The Queen") and director Fernando Meirelles ("The Constant Gardener," "City of God") -- both past Oscar nominees -- are capable of greatness and although "360" gets close on a few occasions, it never quite jells.

Presented out-of-sequence and with a minimal amount of dialogue, "360" also takes place in six countries and is spoken in a half-dozen different languages. In the original play, the plot was like a relay race. Each segment featured two characters and would lose and gain a new character in each subsequent scene. Here, some of the characters disappear for long stretches and might pop up later in either larger or smaller roles.

What you can be told going in is that all of the characters are at pivotal personal and/or professional crossroads and most of the time they're engaged in something that is either illegal, immoral or depressing.

Law plays a married man and what appears to be a seller of bulk construction metals who has sheepishly hired a neophyte online prostitute. When one of his customers figures this out, it is used as leverage in an attempt to drive down the price of the goods. Weisz's character, also married, is attempting to end an affair with a much younger artist type to whom she is professionally connected.

An actor of immense range and completely unafraid to play unsavory, out-there characters, Foster appears as a recently paroled convicted sex offender who becomes severely tempted by an unsuspecting, on-the-rebound girl he meets at an airport bar. The same girl has also recently engaged Hopkins' character in a heavy-duty conversation regarding a search for his daughter who went missing some time ago under odd circumstances for which he feels eminently responsible.

Although it doesn't provide much in the way of story, "360" is the type of movie that writers, editors and acting students will eventually use as study material -- for both good and bad reasons. It's also worth mentioning that Hopkins performs not one but two lengthy monologues that are gut-wrenching and at least match or exceed anything he's ever committed to film -- and that includes everything he did in three films portraying Dr. Hannibal Lecter. (Magnolia)