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ASYLUM

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That a mental hospital should be the locus of a sexual psycho-drama and doctor-patient power struggles is just one of this film's thuddingly obvious plot set-ups. And that the dissatisfied wife of one of the doctor should embark on a wildly destructive affair with a notorious inmate. Or that it all ends rather badly, if predictably. David Mackenzie's turgid melodrama, adapted from Patrick McGrath's novel set at a remote hospital in 1950s England, puts its able cast through these wringers with surprisingly little heat: It's a very gloomy and dull love affair between the reckless missus (Natasha Richardson) and the dour patient (Martin Csokas), even when complicated by the hospital's scheming head (Ian McKellen). All the characters are in need of further development to sketch out their motivations, as is the work's overarching conceit about the erotic appeal of madness. Manor (AH)

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