Unstable 'Simpatico'

It takes more than a great cast to make a great picture.

"Simpatico" features a whole stable of stars, from Nick Nolte and Jeff Bridges to Sharon Stone and Catherine Keener, with the great Albert Finney thrown in for good measure. All do respectable work, and Keener does better than that - her award-winning performance in "Being John Malkovich" is no fluke - but in the end they're no more memorable than the movie around them.

Named after a race horse, "Simpatico" centers on a criminal escapade planned by three young friends who stop being so friendly after their caper falls apart. The movie shuttles between the bygone scheme and a period much later, when the reunited trio must come to terms with events of the past.

This isn't a bad story idea, and if the movie doesn't have as much impact as its credentials lead you to expect, it's less because of specific shortcomings than a general failure to make the most of promising material.

Matthew Warchus directed it from a screenplay he wrote with David Nicholls. It is based on a play by Sam Shepard, whose own career has become progressively less interesting - see his unimaginative acting in "Snow Falling on Cedars" for an example - since his early years as a feisty artistic rebel.

"Simpatico" is worth seeing to keep up with Keener's evolving excellence and Stone's continuing effort to stretch her range. But the picture isn't likely to linger in your mind once the closing credits have rolled.

*Rated R; contains sex and violence.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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