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By Merle Bertrand | April 22, 2002

I don’t know what the British phrase might be for giving someone a run-around, but whatever it is, John Gissing (Alan Rickman) is sure giving it to Matthew Barnes (director Mike Binder). It starts as soon as Gissing fails to pick up Barnes and his brassy wife Linda (Janeane Garofalo) at London’s Heathrow airport. After one or two similar such “miscommunications” — Gissing checking the Barneses into a hotel suite reserved for their snotty French CEO Francois Fuller (Allan Corduner), for instance, or arranging a compromising rendezvous for Barnes with a sexually frustrated nun (Sonya Walger) — it dawns on the exiled Chicagoans that the AWOL Mr. Gissing might not exactly be a team player. Eventually, Barnes realizes that he’s been brought to London to replace Gissing…who’s doing everything he can to sabotage the naive newcomer.
Okay, first of all, I don’t think I’d ever want to tick off Ms. Garofalo, whose sharp-tongued characters can all lacerate titanium. She’s a perfect second here for Binder’s fast-on-his-feet Barnes…and it takes this double team to grapple with the suavely scaly Gissing. Alan Rickman, who’s quickly becoming the class of all actors who primarily portray villains, is particularly enjoyable to watch here. His Gissing turns up the snobbery to eleven, filling his veins with ice water as he determinedly and matter-of-factly wreaks havoc on the lives of the threatening American interlopers.
Director Mike Binder brings just a dash of high brow gimmickry to “The Search for John Gissing,” primarily in the form of the mini jump-cut clusters he effectively scatters throughout this dryly witty film. Pointless in and of themselves, they scoot the pace along a bit while providing a dash of European style to this unlikely comedic romp.
“The Search for John Gissing” would not have been nearly as much fun had it been made with unknown actors or even lesser known stars. With this excellent cast, however, bringing to life Binder’s briskly written screenplay and snappy pacing, “The Search for John Gissing” makes for a silly and surprisingly funny off-Hollywood farce.

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