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20th Century Fox
Kevin Gage and Daniel Baldwin in "Paparazzi."
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updated 9/3/2004 5:37:44 PM ET 2004-09-03T21:37:44
REVIEW

Some movies are comedies, some are dramas. When “Paparazzi” comes out on video, which should be happening right...about...now, you can find it filed under the “No, duh” category.

The photographers of the film’s title slink and slither through Los Angeles, stalking their celebrity prey with single-minded sleaziness. The stars they follow feel justifiably violated and sometimes fight back. Tabloids pay a lot of money for these pictures — the more intrusive the better. Average people perpetuate the cycle by spending money on such trashy publications.

And that’s it. No new insights into the nature of fame, the nuances of privacy or the need for this kind of “journalism.”

The whole thing plays like a heavy-handed public service announcement on the importance of protecting celebrities’ civil liberties, though it would seem like an inside joke if it were even remotely clever.

Mel Gibson, one of the film’s producers, smashed a photographer’s camera outside a nightclub in Modesto, Calif., in 1990.

Alec Baldwin — who clashed with a photographer in 1995 when he and his then-wife, Kim Basinger, were returning home from the hospital with their infant daughter — is mentioned in the movie, and his brother, Daniel, plays one of the lowest of the low-life shooters.

And the movie’s mad band of photographers praise George Clooney — who has famously crusaded against the paparazzi and tried to change the laws that protect their work — as “a real gold mine.”

It’s all very knowing, but as a viewer it’s hard to care.

“Paparazzi” wasn’t screened for critics before opening day, which is never a good sign, but it’s sort of a wonder that the movie is appearing in theaters at all. Its low-budget aesthetic and stiff performances seem better suited to the kind of direct-to-cable fare you might watch with detached interest while flipping channels in the middle of the night.

Except for the totally over-the-top Tom Sizemore, that is. As Rex Harper, the king of the paparazzi, Sizemore growls at everyone around him with wild-eyed abandon. (And he, too, has been real-life tabloid fodder for years for his volatile relationship with Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss.)

Rex turns his venom on up-and-coming action hero Bo Laramie (Cole Hauser), star of the generically titled movies “Adrenaline Force” and “Adrenaline Force 2,” after Bo punches him out for snapping pictures during his young son’s soccer game.

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The cat-and-mouse game turns ugly quickly in the first feature from director Paul Abascal, a former hair stylist whose credits include Gibson’s “Lethal Weapon” movies. Rex and his minions, who consider themselves “the last of the real hunters,” chase Bo while he’s in the car with his wife (Robin Tunney) and son, causing them to have an accident. Then they crawl all over the hood to get photos of the bloodied, unconscious victims trapped in the wreckage, and they later persist when Bo and his wife are walking out of the hospital, where their son is lying in a coma.

It’s like, OK, we get it already — these are truly evil people.

Bo sets out to get revenge, which is mildly amusing to watch, though his tactics are pretty far-fetched. Dennis Farina plays the LAPD detective who investigates Bo’s crash, and continues digging when the photographers start having accidents of their own.

And some other actors who show up in cameos provide a couple of laughs, but even during these cinematic dog days, it’s nothing worth lapping up.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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