With his exquisite sense of composition and color, of camera motion and musical accompaniment, Wenders' movies make plot and characterization seem almost beside the point. Unfortunately, in a movie as lushly imagined and seductively photographed as "The End of Violence," when story rears its shaggy head, most audiences will smirk or even laugh aloud. Bill Pullman plays a successful producer of violent movies whose personal life is falling apart; wife Andie MacDowell needs more attention than he can provide. A robbery turns into a carjacking, then a multiple murder, and he's thrust into a real-life intrigue. Unfortunately, it's not very convincing. A second strand of story, with Gabriel Byrne as a surveillance expert setting up a grid of video cameras around Los Angeles, provides the potential for many striking ideas about the entire idea of watching, of voyeurism, of the passive consumption of violent images. But not enough is made of this congruence -- or incongruence -- between the lives of the two characters. Wenders' film references are wide and catholic. The banks of monitors are reminiscent of his countryman Fritz Lang's Dr. Mabuse character, one of the great intellectual versions of the all-powerful boogieman in film history. And the observatory building is site of some of the most famous scenes from Wenders' one-time collaborator Nick Ray's "Rebel Without A Cause." Without this information, some of the choices of location and imagery may puzzle the average audience. Perhaps not. The pulse of the movie is lush and satisfying, but Nicholas Klein's ambitious script simply doesn't add up. "The End of Violence" opens with a bravura sequence that demonstrates the separation between the portrayal of violence and violence itself that's an utter knockout, but when Wenders attempts to engage larger ideas as his simplistic story progresses, he's far less successful.
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