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By Merle Bertrand | October 18, 1999

If the Devil did wear black, he’d sure stand out in this crowd, as director Stacy Title paints virtually every character in this whodunit thriller some shade of gray. If Dustin Hoffman’s character in “The Graduate” were in a movie today, he’d probably be just like Jack (Jonathan Penner.) A detached grad student with a murky history of mental illness who can’t seem to get over his idolized father’s sudden death, Jack has begun taking an interest in his late father’s business for the first time. He discovers that that business was primarily snatching up sleazy businesses such as bars and strip clubs on prime real estate and holding onto them until he could sell the land for a fortune. Which, as it turns out, he hardly ever did much to the consternation of his brother and his lawyer. After receiving an anonymous tip in a tavern toilet that his father was actually murdered, Jack slowly begins piecing together the murder scheme. Soon, his greasy playboy Uncle Carl emerges as the prime suspect at just about the same time Jack realizes his own life is in serious danger. With its threadbare and disjointed plotline, it’s the collection of greedy, seedy characters who keeps “Devil” afloat. Penner’s Jack swings from affable charisma to hard-bitten schmuck with ease while the shifting perceptions and alliances of the supporting characters drives the film as much if not more so than the plot. With a feeling much closer to a serious and sexy “B” movie than an edgy indie film, “Let the Devil Wear Black” should make a comfortable landing in a video store near you.

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