Welcome to the land of the rich and shameless. In Manhattan, Eli Wurman (Al Pacino) is a legend, a PR guru with a reign that stretches back to the 60s and a contacts book containing enough star wattage to light up the Eastern Seaboard. Burnt out by booze and drugs, he's ready to cash in his chips, but the world he once ruled has a final deadly trick up its sleeve, in this intriguing but deeply flawed thriller.
Called out at 2.30am by big time movie star Cary Launer (Ryan O'Neal) to bail a young starlet (Téa Leoni) from the jailhouse, Eli slowly realises that his life of carefully organised chaos is about to slip out of his control. He becomes drawn into a conspiracy involving some of New York's most powerful players.
"PACINO TRASHES HIS GOOD LOOKS"
It takes a certain lack of vanity to be able to play down-at-heel as well as Pacino. Few ageing stars of his magnitude would be so willing to trash what's left of their good looks for the sake of a movie, but Pacino has done it time and time again.
In People I Know, he plays this Manhattan PR man like some unkempt down-and-out still clinging to past glories while sucking on bottles of bourbon, handfuls of pharmaceuticals, and the occasional cup of strong, black coffee. It's like being invited to witness day 20,000 of a lifetime bender.
Harking back to the star's own glorious acting past, director Daniel Algrant stages the talky plot as if it had come straight out of a 70s thriller like Serpico or The Parallax View. Disappointly, though, the script's weakness lies in its all-too-obvious intrigues. Forget cliffhanger suspense: the plot of People I Know is about as subtle as being dangled by your ankles over a precipice. It robs Pacino's powerhouse performance of a proper context and leaves this potentially intelligent thriller looking slightly gormless.