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Love Ranch: movie review

Helen Mirren stars in 'Love Ranch,' a slow tawdry drama about a husband and wife who run a legalized brothel in 1970s Nevada.

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What a difference a marriage makes. In Helen Mirren’s most recent triumph, “The Last Station,” she played the wife of Christopher Plummer’s Leo Tolstoy, and even though the marital union was fraught, the acting was amazing and the movie was marvelous.

Her latest movie, “Love Ranch,” set in Nevada in the 1970s, isn’t just a comedown, it’s a plummet without a parachute.

Mirren plays Grace, wife and business partner of Joe Pesci’s Charlie Bontempo, the owner of a legalized brothel. The couple is based on Joe and Sally Conforte and their notorious Mustang Ranch. It’s a tawdry movie about a tawdry business.

This is the first film that director Taylor Hackford has made with Mirren, his wife, since “White Nights” back in 1985. His usual hypercharged stylistics – on display, most recently, in “Ray” – are completely absent here. The film is so lethargic, and the cinematography so washed-out, that it wilts as you’re watching it.

Maybe Hackford, and his screenwriter Mark Jacobson, were attempting to convey the dullness of vice. If so, they vastly overcorrected. But what about the dullness of the performances?

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