Sunday, July 10, 2016

His Double Life (Hybrid LLC, Lifetime, 2016)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2016 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

Last night Lifetime followed the quite impressive Hidden Truth with another suspense melodrama, His Double Life, which they’d run recently in the same 10 p.m. to midnight time slot but which I hadn’t watched at the time because a cursory look at my movie files told me I’d already seen it. I hadn’t; the previous His Double Life was a quite good independent film from 1933 about a famous painter who fakes his own death and then attempts a comeback. This His Double Life was far less interesting and nowhere near as good as Hidden Truth, mainly because writers Peter Sullivan (who also directed) and Jeffrey Schenck went whole-hog on precisely the sorts of melodramatic excesses the makers of Hidden Truth, director Steven R. Monroe and writer Richard O. Lowry, had wisely avoided. His Double Life begins with a chase scene at night on a mountain road that ends with a car crashing and the death of its owner, though it’s not until this film is about three-quarters over that we finally realize the significance of that sequence. Then we get a title reading “Five Years Later” and five years later Linda Thomas (Emmanuelle Vaugier), whose husband was killed in that opening scene, is about to remarry. Her new husband is Greg Davis (Brian Krause), who was her late husband’s business partner in a company called Digital Force that’s currently in the middle of a major new software project Greg is mum about even though it’s taking him away a lot of nights both from Linda and her teenage daughter Scarlett (Cristine Prosperi), who’s just returned from her freshman year at a prestigious East Coast university (I can’t recall which one) and who wants to spend as much time as possible over the summer break with her mom and the “new” man in her life. Brian Krause isn’t drop-dead gorgeous but he’s still pretty hot, and director Sullivan gives us a nice crotch shot showing his basket — and the moment we see how well-hung he is we know he must be a black-hearted villain.

Scarlett is suspicious of him because he keeps going out at night, and she breaks into his phone and notes that one of the addresses he’s been is a fancy restaurant called Été, which from their menu and logo hardly looks like the sort of place you’d take a business associate for a “working” meal. Scarlett traces Davis to the home of a woman named Mary Harlow, and the two of them greet each other with a hug at her door and an embrace before they pull the shades. Of course Scarlett assumes that Davis and Mary are having an affair, only in the next sequence she discovers that the truth is even worse than that: she’s out at a restaurant where her rather air-headed blonde friend Darcy (Kati Salowski) works as a waitress when the TV in the place shows a news report that Mary Harlow’s dead body has just been found. Through various clues — including seeing someone run into Davis at a restaurant and call him by another name (and Davis subsequently corners this person in the parking lot and kills her) and tracing him to a military museum where he runs into another person carrying an identical briefcase and the two exchange them for a dead drop — Scarlett realizes that “Davis” is actually a Russian spy. The film’s issue becomes whether she can get the goods on him before he realizes that she’s on to him and knocks her off — and also before he completes his secret plan and launches “Cerberus,” a software program that his company has created under contract to the National Security Agency (NSA) to keep their data (including, you’ll remember, records on every cell-phone call and e-mail made, sent or received in the U.S. —thank you once again, Edward Snowden, for blowing the whistle on the police-state extent of the NSA’s 24/7 spying on the entire American population!) more secure. Of course, he’s built in a back door to the program so he can download the NSA’s entire data archive and forward it to his Russian masters — and he’s stopped just in the nick of time after Scarlett leaks what she’s got on him to the local FBI office (the film is set in L.A.).

Only “Davis” manages to knock off Scarlett’s friend Darcy and overpower Scarlett, her mom Linda and her boyfriend August (Santiago Segura), a colorless nerd she knew in high school but thought she’d grown beyond until Darcy shoved them back together and Scarlett found August’s computer hacking skills useful. The big climax occurs when Scarlett shows up at her own home for what she thinks is going to be a meeting with Darcy, only when she gets there Davis has tied up both her mom and August — though eventually Scarlett and Davis have a fight and force Davis to drop his gun, and mom picks it up and plugs him just before the FBI arrives. The 2016 His Double Life is just one ridiculous plot contrivance after another, and it’s not terribly well acted either: Cristine Prosperi goes through the entire movie with one blank expression on her face, which apparently was her attempt to look “serious” but just makes her look dorky, and though he’s hot enough I could fantasize about him Brian Krause is also pretty blank as an actor, especially when he has to make a final speech in which he says the U.S. is too powerful and he needs to do what he’s doing to “restore the balance” by making Russia a rival superpower again — which sounds like the sorts of real-life rationalizations the Soviet spies in the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s were making. Indeed, at least one of the agendas Sullivan and Schenck were pursuing in making this movie was heating up the Cold War again — a final title says that Russia has actually increased its number of espionage agents in the U.S. since the Soviet Union fell and “they could be your co-workers … your friends … your neighbors … your husbands.” I wouldn’t mind that so much if the show had at least stayed more or less within the bounds of credibility enough to be entertaining — Charles has been bothered by the neo-Cold War politics of the CBS-TV series Madam Secretary but at least their episodes have been well written and, within the conventions of TV drama, reasonably believable, which His Double Life was decidedly not.