The last time we saw Roman Polanksi, he had just won (as it were) a victory in Switzerland that stopped extradition to the United States for is decades old conviction on statutory rape. He has lived in exile since 1978.


Since then he directed "Ghostwriter" with Ewan McGregor and now "Carnage" with an Oscar caliber cast. Though "Carnage" is based in New York it was filmed entirely in France since, upon entry to the US, Polanski would be arrested. But that doesn't stop top notch talent from wanting to be in a Polanski film.


For "Carnage" he nailed down Oscar winner Jodie Foster, Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet plus Oscar nominee John C Reilly for, what should have been, an acting clinic on par with "The Big Chill" or "Rope".

Well, that's how it should have been.


The entire movie, well at least 95% of the 80-minute chatfest takes place in a Brooklyn apartment as two sets of parents try to hash out an apology for their children who were involved in a schoolyard fight.


Penelope and Michael Longstreet (Foster and Reilly) host Nancy and Alan Cowan (Winslet and Waltz) in what starts out as a amicable discussion but soon deteriorates into sniping and innuendo. It becomes more of a contest between conservative and liberal than parents. Penelope and Michael are the liberals.

From the mere proposal of such a discussion, red flags immediately go off in the audience head. The reality is this would never happen.


While Penelope tries to maintain order while throwing out parenting innuendo, Nancy is busy hitting the sauce - namely a single malt scotch that was made available.


Michael is the laid back "let's see where this goes" comic relief while Alan is busy on the phone negotiating whatever a lawyer might be negotiating. To him, this is a continuation of work with no billing for services rendered.


As Nancy gets more sauced, tempers flair and what originally was a neat well ordered apartment becomes a tossing arena.

The concept is interesting however the casting (believe it or not) is off. Jodie Foster is way ut of her element and Winslet isn't comfortable in hers. Somehow, at the very least they should have been in each others role with Foster playing the conservative and Winslet tossing out the humorous barbs. Waltz merely carries over his "Inglorious Bastards" routine only as a lawyer instead of a Nazi - and that is getting tired. Reilly, the only non-Oscar winning member of the ensemble is the best of the lot.


Based on a play originally titled Le Dieu du carnage (Lay Waste To England For Me), the play made it to Broadway as Carnage of God and this is what Polanski based the

film. You can't help but wonder why he didn't cast the Broadway stage troupe of Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, James Gandolfini and Marcia Gay Harden - all comfortable in front of the camera.


"Carnage" should have been better that it is. It's like what happens with too many cooks in the kitchen and an executive chef busy doing something else. It could have been another "Rope"... but it misses by a mile.   -- GEOFF BURTON