Three films to avoid even during a pandemic

By Rick Anderson

For The Daily World

Curiosity often triggers some strange decisions when you are mostly cooped up at home.

In my case, it was checking out (via television) a notorious turkey of a movie, just to determine if it really was as bad as critics claimed.

The 1993 thriller “Sliver” truly lived down to its reputation. So much so that I’d include it (along with 1988’s “Betrayed” and 1995’s “The Quick and the Dead”) in my list of the Top Three Movies to Avoid Even During a Pandemic.

The common denominator is that all three films co-starred either Tom Berenger or Sharon Stone — or, in the case of “Sliver,” both.

That may or may not be a coincidence. Berenger is a respected actor best known for his Oscar-nominated role as the evil sergeant in “Platoon.” Stone’s critical reputation is shakier, but she’s effective when not asked to extend her somewhat narrow acting range.

A bigger culprit probably is Joe Ezterhas, the screenwriter for “Sliver” and “Betrayed.” His scripts for both films would have been difficult for even Tom Hanks or Meryl Streep to overcome.

In “Sliver,” Stone plays a divorced book editor who moves into a New York high-rise apartment building. There she becomes involved with the seductive but voyeuristic landlord (William Baldwin) and another tenant, a has-been author (Berenger) who specializes in awkwardly macho advances.

Let’s get this straight: You have a presumably intelligent heroine who looks like Sharon Stone and expect the audience to believe that her only romantic options in New York are these two losers? That premise becomes even more far-fetched when it becomes apparent that one of them may be responsible for a series of murders in the apartment building.

The mystery doesn’t work because, even in a large cast, these two characters are the only viable suspects. By the time the plot lurches to its conclusion, the audience doesn’t much care which one is guilty.

It probably didn’t help matters that Stone and Baldwin reportedly shared an unusually hostile off-screen relationship. Their mutual animosity reached a peak when Stone bit Baldwin’s tongue during a kissing scene hard enough to render the actor temporarily speechless. Thankfully, that scene didn’t make it into the final cut.

Two years later, Stone starred as a mysterious loner who enters an Old West gunfighting tournament in “The Quick and the Dead.”

Reviewers seem divided as to whether this film (which bears no resemblance to the classic Louis L’Amour novel of the same name) is a gender-bending version of Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti Westerns or a parody of the entire genre.

But Stone is no Eastwood and, as a satire, it doesn’t exactly rank with “Blazing Saddles.” Either way, it’s a waste of a terrific supporting cast that includes Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe and a young Leonardo DiCaprio.

If pressed, however, I’d rank “Betrayed” as my least favorite big-budget movie.

Debra Winger stars as a thick-headed FBI agent assigned to go undercover and infiltrate a white supremacy group. She falls in love with the group’s leader (Berenger), but is shocked to discover that he is a racist and a murderer. Who knew?

Overwrought throughout, the film concludes with an appropriately ludicrous final scene. Her cover long since blown, Winger’s character narrowly escapes with her life. But she voluntarily returns to the group’s compound because she had forgotten to say goodbye to the Berenger character’s daughter.

The 1994 Richard Gere melodrama “Intersection” probably would have made this dubious list of films to avoid, except that I saw it on TV and switched channels at about the midway point.

For what it’s worth, Sharon Stone co-starred in that movie as well.