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Trailer: Winter's Tale

A burglar falls for an heiress as she dies in his arms. When he learns that he has the gift of reincarnation, he sets out to save her.

PT2M34S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-32ja2 620 349

Reviewer rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Reader rating:

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars (5 votes)

This fairytale of New York, with an unbelievably rich cast, sinks or swims on the stardust and sparkle of Pegasus, the mythical winged horse. Or to put it another way, when Colin Farrell is about to be murdered slowly by Russell Crowe on a New York City dock, circa 1916, and a white horse appears from nowhere to save his bog Irish bacon, you either climb up on the horse, in terms of belief, or you don't.

As the horse leaps o'er a four-metre gate and sprouts wings, carrying Pete Lake (Farrell) above the Manhattan bridges to safety, you might marvel at the film's audacity or sink lower in your seat, cowering at the thought of two more hours of this mixture of magic realism and horse manure. And there I was, without a shovel.

"Winter's Tale"

Heightened atmosphere: Jennifer Connelly in Winter's Tale. Photo: Supplied

The film is based on the second novel of multi-hyphenated writer Mark Helprin, published in 1983. Helprin is a journalist, novelist and former foreign policy adviser to Bob Dole. He has degrees from Harvard and Oxford, a hawkish outlook on US and Israeli defence matters, and an oddly poetic and sentimental turn of phrase. Helprin has described it as his love story to New York City, written when he was living there and obsessed ''with every aspect of the city''.

Cut to the movie and Crowe as gangster Pearly Soames holds a huge precious stone to the light in his sumptuous loft of iniquity, the headquarters of his band of brigands. He doesn't steal these for money, he explains to No.1 henchman Romeo (Kevin Corrigan), but for the way they attract the light. As if by magic, a ray passes through the stone and shows him where to look for Pete Lake, his former protege. ''Grand Central Station,'' he growls in his best foghorn whisper and Irish brogue, a livid scar decorating the left cheek. Pearly is obviously clairvoyant as well as vicious. And like the horse, he is not quite of this world. Will Smith turns up in an amusing cameo as his superior, the Judge (aka, the one who is never cold, the one who gave Rosemary her baby).

The movie follows quite closely the book, in which Lake, an orphan thief, falls helplessly in love with a consumptive young beauty from uptown, Beverly Penn (played by beguiling English rose Jessica Brown Findlay). She is his destiny, unless Pearly finds him first. William Hurt has a few scenes as her dad, a newspaper editor. Jennifer Connelly, Graham Greene and Eva Marie Saint turn up in other time periods, as the movie flits through 100 years of New York solitude.

It's pretty, with wintry white locations and settings, but made with an unrelentingly heightened atmosphere, every scene a climax drizzled with a treacly score (for which there are two credits, Rupert Gregson-Williams and Hans Zimmer). Its release on Valentine's Day tells us the target market – readers of romance novels – but the chase between time-travelling Pearly and Pete is fashioned for readers of violent graphic novels. Nothing like a bet each-way, except that this horse won't run, even if he can fly.

Twitter: @ptbyrnes