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Film review: 'Heaven' sizzles, then fizzles

Published: Friday, Nov. 20 2009 12:00 a.m. MST

James Nesbitt, left, stars as the brother of a murder victim, and Liam Neeson as the killer in ?Five Minutes of Heaven.?

Steffan Hill, Steffan Hill

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FIVE MINUTES OF HEAVEN — ★★1/2 — James Nesbitt, Liam Neeson; not rated, probable R (violence, profanity, gore, vulgarity, slurs, brief drugs); Broadway Centre

"Five Minutes of Heaven" is actually 75 minutes worth of buildup to an ending that's much more fizzle than sizzle.

In fact, it's hard not to feel let down by the rather anticlimactic finale to this otherwise dramatic thriller.

While the film has its share of manipulative moments, it also has something to say about victims' rights and about the emotional fallout from violent crime.

Plus it has an "act-off" of sorts — consisting of give-and-take between the fiery James Nesbitt and the more sedate and restrained but no less effective Liam Neeson.

They star, respectively, as Joe Griffen and Alistair Little.

Joe has spent 30 years in abject misery after watching his older brother get gunned down by a Northern Ireland gang member and being able to do nothing about it.

Alistair, who was the shooter, served 12 years in prison but has now returned to a "normal" life.

These two men are scheduled to meet as part of a television program that claims to aid in the "reconciliation" process.

Alistair is insisting that the producers allow Joe to express himself honestly and without any restrictions.

Joe, though, can't decide what he hopes to get out of the meeting. He spends most of the drive to the shooting location trying to get the driver to turn around and leave.

And then, once Joe does get to the location, his true motives are revealed: He's hoping for "five minutes of heaven," as he finally exacts some form of revenge on Alistair.

Director Oliver Hirschbiegel (2004's Oscar winning "Downfall") and screenwriter Guy Hibbert were smart to make this more of a character piece.

The plotting itself becomes so over the top that the whole thing loses quite a bit of steam.

Still, there's no denying the power of the performances. In addition to the two leads, Mark Davison and Kevin O'Neill are quite good as the younger versions of the characters, seen in flashback sequences.

"Five Minutes of Heaven" is not rated but would probably receive an R for strong violent content and imagery (newsreel footage, as well as shootings and gunplay, brawling, knife violence and brief violence against women), strong sexual language (profanity, vulgar slang terms and other suggestive language), bloody and gory imagery, derogatory language and slurs (based on nationality and religious affiliation), and brief drug references. Running time: 89 minutes.

e-mail: jeff@desnews.com

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