Uncovered film review
by Todd McCarthy
30 May 1994
Generous dollops of sex and colorful Barcelona settings dress up
but can't disguise the routine and predictable whodunit plot of
Jim McBride's Uncovered. Shot under the title The Flemish
Board, this handsome European production doesn't offer enough
in the way of a marquee cast or alluring premise to put it over
as a theatrical attraction Stateside, where cable and video release
look more suitable.
Kate Beckinsale (the young bride in Much Ado About Nothing)
toplines as Julia, an art restorer who, in the course of cleaning
a 15th-century Flemish painting of a duke and a knight playing chess
under the watchful eye of a duchess, uncovers a Latin inscription
along the bottom that reads, "Who killed the knight?"
No sooner does Julia seek advice from her former lover, art authority
Alvaro (Art Malik), than he is found murdered. It doesn't take long
for the list of victims to outnumber the suspects: Among those drawn
into the intrigue are Julia's gay guardian (John Wood), an art gallery
proprietor (Sinead Cusack), the painting's dying, aristocratic owner
(Michael Gough), his shady niece (Helen McCrory) and her philandering
hubby (Peter Wingfield).
Enlisted to piece together the painting's mystery is an arrogant
gypsy chess whiz (Paudge Behan), who by analyzing the position of
the chess pieces in the painting can begin to sort out the pattern
of the real-life murders.
His eventual hot affair with Julia provides momentary distraction
from the procession of toppling bodies. The mystery's resolution
is easily predictable and perfunctorily handled.
McBride does everything he can to spice up the routine proceedings,
injecting sexual innuendo into every possible encounter and populating
the cast with lookers in roles big and small.
Julia's habit of sneezing whenever presented with a sexual threat
grows irritating, but sensual atmosphere, augmented by gorgeous
settings (Wood's character lives in a Gaudi apartment building),
Affonso Beato's lovely lensing and flavorsome score by Philippe
Sarde, makes pic easy on the eyes.
Putting Anglo-accented thesps in presumably Spanish roles is a
curious choice, but approach is at least consistent and proves acceptable.
Beckinsale looks a little young to be an experienced restorer, but
she holds her own nicely at center screen.
Irish newcomer Behan seems obnoxiously full of himself initially
but gradually becomes an appealing presence. Others have fun within
the basically functional limits of their roles.