Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Many years ago, super secret agent spyman Tom Sparrow (David Rasche) gave his daughter Josephine a kiss goodbye and told her he would always come back. Tom goes on a super spy mission, gets shot in the face, stumbles back home where another dude is taking care of his wife in a biblical way, gets beat up for his trouble and stumbles off. It would be an awful long time before Josephine would see her old man again as this spy movie ‘Crimes of the Past’ begins its slow moving, methodical, drawn out tale.

When we catch up to Josephine (Elisabeth Rohm) years later, we see that time hasn’t been so kind to her since she spends most of her time binge drinking, entertaining a different man every night and being late to her job. I would also say she spends a lot of time at the gym. Seriously, it is very clear that actress Elisabeth Rohm takes fantastic care of herself. I would guess her bodyfat probably hovers around twelve percent, she’s toned and defined and has skin that is so pristine and glows so brightly that Oil of Olay models must weep with envy. I only mention this because Ms. Rohm’s physical appearance just slightly throws off the whole ‘downtrodden, down on her luck, beat up by life’ tramp image that we are supposed to be getting from this character. Fortunately she was good enough in this movie that we would forget this fact but every once in a while the camera would catch her in a certain way and you’re just kind of left amazed at how physically fit this woman is.

So while Josephine’s life is in shambles, note that she’s about to lose partial custody of her daughter in a drunken fit that put the entire city of Seattle in a temporary blackout, her old man is back in town. Truth of the matter is he never really left, always keeping an eye and surveillance on his baby girl, but keeping out of sight. His former spook buddy and current psychoanalyst Robert (Eric Roberts) thinks he should at least try to integrate himself back in his daughter’s life but Tom is reticent to do this.

Besides, Tom has his own issues. The gig that got him shot in the face back in the day was a blown op that resulted in a missing half a million dollars and despite the fact that was 26 years, ago his bosses at The Agency thinks he might’ve stolen that money. Worse still is that there’s this old school KGB agent floating about who has apparently forgotten that the Cold War is over and he too thinks Tom stole this money as well and will do anything to make Tom pay for stealing this money he may or may not have taken.

Eventually Tom will creep back in his daughter’s life though she’s not all that happy to see him. You can kind of see her point because her life has been total crap while he stood on the sidelines observing her train wreck of a life, but then a few things happen that illustrate how having a spook for a dad can sometimes work in your favor. Unless his old enemies want to kill you to get to him. Then it’s not working in your favor. Not at all.

Directed by Garrett Bennett, ‘Crimes of the Past’ is one slow moving film. Really slow. Sometimes it moves so slow that it feels like it’s going backwards. Oddly enough as slow as ‘Crimes of the Past’ moves it is still lacking in clarity, and its not like there wasn’t enough time spent looking at people mope introspectively to inject some clarity here and there. The reason that this film isn’t as clear as it could be is because, despite the slow pace, there is still an awful lot going on. In addition to the father being chased by the KGB and the CIA, though ‘chased’ probably isn’t the operative word, and the daughter and her laundry list of issues, there’s the cute kid floating around, there’s the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to deal with, there’s Joesphine’s problems with her estranged sister and her estranged dying mother, there’s the philandering asshole ex-husband and other little tidbits which take away from the core of the story, that being the ultimately sketchy spy element of this film.

But while recognizing that this movie moves way too slowly and is saddled with a fractured narrative… if you don’t give up on it, invariably it will draw you in. This is mainly because Rohm and Rasche are really good actors and they both do good work in this movie. In fact pretty much all the performances are very good in this movie including Olivia Thomas who plays the young daughter. Very good child actress. As mentioned earlier once you get past Elisabeth Rohm’s damn near physical flawlessness she does a good job of selling the audience on this character she’s playing, making her character somewhat sympathetic despite the fact the majority of her problems are self-inflicted. Rasche, who will always have a place in our heart because of ‘Sledge Hammer!’, was about as far as humanly possible from Sledge with his moody melancholy performance as the spy stuck in the cold. He couldn’t sell me on why at no point in his daughter’s life he didn’t pop in to say hello at some point, but it was still an effective performance nonetheless.

We only would’ve hoped that these fine performances, including one turned in by Eric Roberts, could’ve been encased in a more involving, coherent, better paced film. Worth watching because of the fine acting performances, if not a lot else.

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