Arlington Road

Published: Friday, July 30 1999 9:54 a.m. MDT

In spite that it involves many twists and turns, a trip down "Arlington Road" is little more than a cinematic dead-end.

It's not as if the parts aren't in place for this long-delayed thriller to be worthwhile: the cast is good and the premise is intriguing. But it's done in such a brain-dead and surprisingly exploitational way (there are nods to the Ruby Ridge siege and the Oklahoma City bombings) that the movie ultimately crumbles under the weight of its many contrivances.

Also, the film starts so slowly — and not in a good way — that you might be asleep by the time something significant finally happens. That's the fault of filmmaker Mark Pellington, a former music-video director who'd rather capture an eye-popping visual than concentrate on telling a story.

And he's unable to coax completely believable performances from his cast — even from such fine actors as Tim Robbins and Jeff Bridges.

Bridges stars as history professor and terrorism expert Michael Faraday. A widower whose FBI agent wife was killed during a botched siege, Michael is just starting to rebuild his life when he meets his new neighbors, Oliver and Cheryl Lang (Robbins and Joan Cusack).

Seemingly an all-American couple, the Langs quickly win over both Michael's son (Spencer Treat Clark) and his former-graduate-student-assistant-turned-girlfriend Brooke (Hope Davis). They also try to befriend Michael, but something about Oliver rubs him the wrong way. So he begins to investigate Oliver's past. But when he finds some incriminating evidence, he's unable to convince anyone that Oliver could be up to no good — even when suspicious things start happening.

Where Ehren Krueger's story goes from there is exactly where you'd expect it to go. But the script also has its share of preposterous plotting, with a series of inconsistencies and illogical moves, especially in the character motivations.

Pellington is so concerned with flashy camera tricks that he doesn't even seem to notice that his performers are lapsing into caricatures. As Michael, Bridges is a little too paranoid to be believable, and he's surprisingly unlikable, while neither Robbins nor Cusack is subtle enough to make you wonder about their characters.

"Arlington Road" is rated R for violence, including gunplay, explosions and a brutal beating, gory makeup and scattered profanities.