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Miracle Hunters: Ed Harris and Anne Heche wrestle with their faith in 'The Third Miracle.'

God's Gumshoe

Ed Harris tracks a saint in Agnieszka Holland's 'The Third Miracle'

By Richard von Busack

IN DIRECTOR Agnieszka Holland's religious film noir The Third Miracle, Ed Harris plays a postulate priest at the end of the 1970s in Chicago who seeks to find out if a local woman deserves sainthood. The woman's daughter, Roxanna (Anne Heche), thinks not. Although the film isn't at all quick on the uptake, it has its moments--mostly in the way Harris embodies all the old tropes of the detective movie, from hard drinking to hopeless love.

As his elusive romance object, Heche is delightful, making even the extremities of bad-taste '70s fashion look fetching. It's hard to understand why Harris would be tempted back to his God after a few make-out sessions with the beguiling woman. And Harris' agonizing crisis of faith seems dramatically redundant. (As a man responsible to the Vatican, it seems like he's in a pretty rarefied foxhole for an agnostic.)

Most critics have been uneasy with scrutinizing this drama too closely, out of respect for the Catholic faith. And yet so much of this movie depends not on love of God but on memories of vintage movie bits: scenes in a (canonical) courtroom and a hospital deathbed, and a flabbergasting coincidence that settles the mystery. Armin Mueller-Stahl plays a genuine Devil's Advocate with a German accent and plenty of slighting remarks about America to get the audience's dander up.

The Third Miracle (R; 119 min.), directed by Agnieszka Holland, written by John Romano, based on the novel by Richard Vetere, photographed by Jerzy Zielinski and starring Ed Harris and Anne Heche, plays at the Towne Theater in San Jose.

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From the January 27-February 2, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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