[box cover]

Second Skin

With supermodel looks, a porn star name, and a bad case of the old amnesia, Crystal Ball (Natasha Henstridge) is wrapped in enigma like a pig in a blanket. First there was the way she mysteriously sauntered into Sam Kane's quiet life: arriving like a zephyr in that nowhere, sleepy coastal town and flirtatiously applying for a job in his dead-end used bookstore. And then the way she left his store — sunlight burning provocatively through the flimsy gauze of her thin dress, flashing Sam a "come and get me" smile, and provocatively stepping into the path of a speeding SUV. Intrigued by this perplexing and helpless hottie, Sam (Angus MacFadyen) waits out Crystal's hospitalization to help her adjust to her accident-induced amnesia and help himself into her pants in the process. But as Crystal slowly begins to uncover slivers of recollection about her past life, dark secrets emerge. And Sam's no plain old bastard, either. On the scale of straight-to-video films noir-nouveau, Darrell James Roodt's Second Skin is hanging out like a troubled call girl on the corner of Mediocrity Street and Slightly Diverting Boulevard. Even though the frequent twists are fairly obvious, they're made with enough commitment to not feel stale, and director Roodt (helmer of the 1993 Patrick Swayze runaway hit Father Hood) adds enough eccentric detail to distinguish the proceedings. Also helpful is Scottish thespian MacFadyen's unusual presence as a leading man. His lack of typical charm adds an element of uncertainty, and Henstridge has blossomed into a capable and appealing B-movie femme fatale. Roodt, however, frequently punctuates his film with arty montages that come off more ponderous than hip, and the delicate narrative relies too heavily on unpredictable circumstance and questionable motivation. All said and done, it's easy to forget Second Skin within an hour of watching it, but it's not a wholly objectionable experience if you have the time to spare. Also starring Peter Fonda as a bland baddie. Artisan's DVD release features an anamorphic transfer (1.78:1) with audio in Dolby Digital 5.1. Trailer, keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr



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