Novocaine review

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Having once played a sadistic dentist in Little Shop Of Horrors, Steve Martin is back behind the drill in this curious hybrid of black comedy and film noir.

Martin is Frank Sangster, a wealthy, complacent tooth-tugger who runs his successful practice with hygienist-turned-fiancée Jean (Laura Dern). Then he meets Susan (Helena Bonham Carter in edgy Fight Club mode), a junkie femme fatale who'll do anything to get inside his medicine cupboard. Before Frank can say "open wide", he's having sex in his office, falling foul of Susan's volatile brother (Scott Caan) and being framed for a murder he didn't commit.

Casting Martin in the lead role may seem a little odd, but, as David Mamet's The Spanish Prisoner proved, there's more to this actor than being the perennial funnyman. Here he perfectly replicates the superficial chumminess of the seasoned surgeon, and has obviously listened to writer-director David Atkins' pointers - - the helmer researched his debut feature by hanging out with his father and brothers, who are all, you guessed it, dentists.

If going for your six month check-up conjures images of Laurence Olivier asking Dustin Hoffman "'Is it safe?', you'll probably want to avoid this like the plaque. But anyone else could do a lot worse than giving it a punt, not least for Kevin Bacon's cameo as a Hollywood stud shadowing the detectives on Martin's tail.


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