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[whitespace] The Alarmist
Hobgoblin of Little Movies: David Arquette plays a too-gentle salesman in 'The Alarmist.'

Stanley Tucci and David Arquette are too nice to be nasty in 'The Alarmist'

By Richard von Busack

DAVID ARQUETTE, the hobgoblin of little movies, stars in The Alarmist as Tommy, a callow burglar-alarm salesman in L.A. Tommy is taken under the wing of the company's president, Heinrich Grigoris (Stanley Tucci), who expresses a paternal love for the innocent young man. Seeing how good Tommy is as a salesman, Heinrich correctly suspects him of having some talent as an actor and casts him in what turns out to be a popular TV commercial for the company. Then Heinrich reveals an unsavory side. One drunken night, he confesses to Tommy that he sometimes burglarizes the houses to which he's sold systems.

Based on a play with some rusty, barely concealed dramatic machinery about the nature of trust, The Alarmist is directed unsteadily by first-timer Evan Dunsky, who was in the business end of film production for years.

Gale Ancona (Kate Capshaw), an affluent artist who was once a famous model years ago, begins as Tommy's customer and becomes his lover. Now a single mom, Gale lives a lonely life with her hulking, perhaps demented son (Ryan Reynolds). Capshaw negates the bad impression left by her most famous role, as the whining blonde bimbo in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Middle-aged Gale is forlorn but sexy, always dressed in some kind of clinging stuff that doesn't conceal her body. But sex doesn't thaw her out, and she always seems preoccupied. The mirthless joke is that Tommy can't read her moods, and we can. He's in love, but Gale wouldn't call her fling with him anything more than a fling. Unfortunately, Gale's character is vague and underwritten. The writing is to blame--as opposed to the casting, which is the problem with Tucci's character.

Tucci, determined not to spend his life typecast as a bald-headed weasel, has been playing gentle fellows since his breakthrough film, The Big Night. Between the mooncalf Arquette and the slight, appealing Tucci, you can't believe that the movie will come to a violent end, despite a gun-point hostage situation at the end. This hobgoblin Arquette has a foolish consistency in his roles; he's always the put-open gentle soul--and there's never the sense in his films (save in Dream With the Fishes) that there's something about pure niceness that drives the rest of the world crazy. There's no edge to The Alarmist. Tucci and Arquette are two nice guys, and the movie finishes last.

The Alarmist (R; 95 min.), directed and written by Evan Dunsky, based on the play by Keith Reddin, photographed by Alex Nepomniaschy and starring David Arquette, Stanley Tucci and Kate Capshaw.

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From the November 5-11, 1998 issue of Metro.

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