by Paula Farmer
The careless mistakes of unrepentant youth can lead to tormented adulthood: That’s the lesson learned, or not learned, by the core characters of Simpatico, a suspense thriller that offers a moderate dose of suspense, but not quite enough thrills.
As inseparable friends and teens obsessed with horseracing, Lyle, Vinnie and Rosie unleash an incredible scam that leads to betrayal, blackmail and ultimately a life dogged by the past, with at least one of them determined to settle the score. The film picks up their lives 20 years later, set in a dichotomy of worlds between Lyle’s (Jeff Bridges) luxurious, high-stakes business of thoroughbred racing in Kentucky – shared with Rosie (Sharon Stone), now his rich, tortured wife – and Vinnie’s (Nick Nolte) drunken dump of a life across the country.
First-time director Matthew Warchus develops his characters and unfolds the mystery through a continuous series of time shifts, from flashbacks of the impetuous teen trio to their present grapplings with life’s dilemmas and demons. Although the "continuous" flashback technique is a somewhat clever way to bring cohesiveness to the plot while showcasing the talents of two acting generations – Nolte, Bridges and Stone deliver noteworthy performances – it can’t compensate for the film’s slow pacing, at times to the point of dullness.
Simpatico is motivated by an examination of its characters’ need to confront and learn from the past instead of leading lives as "festering souls." Unfortunately, it’s all overshadowed by an overindulgent, dreary tone with no resolution.
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