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By Ron Wells | February 6, 2000

The producers of “Urbania” have requested that critics not reveal certain kinds of details about the film. I can’t even really tell you what “kind” of details those are as even a broad description can give them away. So what can I tell you?
I’m always leery of filmmakers that display more faith in their plot twists than the actual artistic merits of the film (though, with “The Sixth Sense” it’s warranted). What I can say is that the movie is based on a play, “Urban Legends”. We meet Charlie (Dan Futterman) who lives in a large, unnamed metropolis after experiencing some personal trauma. After a chance encounter with a stranger, he feels as if his luck will change if he can find that person again. Luck changes all around him as various urban legends come to life and a string of random encounters with others draws Charlie close to the desired meeting with the stranger. Everything is building toward something, just what is not so clear until near the end.
Much like “The Sixth Sense” or “The Crying Game”, the end redefines the beginning and the behavior in every encounter after that. It’s a nice stunt if you can pull it off, but the urban legend motif becomes more of a distraction than a reflection of the rest of the action. It doesn’t quite gel. Too much like “The Usual Suspects”, the (un)reliability of the narrator throws into question the nature of everything you’ve seen for the length of the film. You don’t really know what’s subjective, what’s bullshit, and what you can take at face value. It may all go down easily enough as you watch it, but what’s the point when the ending proves that the filmmakers were only trying to show you how clever they were (which is not as much as they think)?

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