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'DAHMER' IS CERTAINLY NOT TO EVERYONE'S TASTE.

Byline: Bob Strauss Film Critic

BEFORE DISMISSING it as a case for the why'd-they-bother file, it should be noted that ``Dahmer'' is a thoughtfully considered, well-acted inquiry into what made the infamous, ghoulish serial killer tick. And while it doesn't come up with very compelling answers to that question, it does so as nonexploitively as one could imagine a film about a guy who drugged, sexually abused, murdered and cannibalized 17 young men (most of them poor minorities) might.

OK, that acknowledged, now back to why bother.

Jeremy Renner, who played a vampire on TV's ``Angel'' and comes off as kind of an addled, blond Tobey Maguire, portrays the Milwaukee murderer at various stages of his life, from his early teen-age explorations of his sexuality to what presumably was his last, long night of freedom with the one that got away (Artel Kayaru, excellent as a deceptively sassy party boy with deep reservoirs of emotional intelligence). It's one of those movies that jumps forward and backward in time, and is as annoying as most that do, although it's more coherent about it than the average mind-of-a-madman exercise.

Anyway, what writer-director David Jacobson (``Criminal'') comes up with here is a portrait of Jeffrey Dahmer as a seductive manipulator who has trouble expressing his passion for other men unless they're at least unconscious. This is apparently due to rejection by the first high-school wrestler who wasn't interested in him (and therefore became casualty No. 1). Dahmer expresses panic and guilt in the immediate aftermath of this impulsive attack, which doesn't exactly fit the classic psychology of the sociopathic thrill killer. But whatever ...

While Jacobson doesn't excuse Dahmer's horrific actions - as Renner plays him, the guy is consistently creepy in an aggressive dweeb kind of way - he always goes for empathy with the character, and sometimes comes unforgivably close to presenting Dahmer as a kind of gay transgressive icon.

Bruce Davison plays Dahmer's clueless father, from whose book some of the film's more humanizing aspects were derived. There is even some bleak comedy relief provided by Jeff's grandma (Kate Williamson), a troublesome crow and a severed head in a box. Evidently, in a movie such as ``Dahmer,'' you get your jollies wherever you can find them.

DAHMER - Two and one half stars

(Rated R: violence, sex, drug use, language)

Starring: Jeremy Renner, Bruce Davison, Artel Kayaru, Matt Newton, Dion Basco.

Director: David Jacobson.

Running time: 1 hr. 42 min.

Playing: Laemmele Sunset 5, West Hollywood.

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

Jeremy Renner assumes the title role of the notorious serial killer/cannibal in the movie ``Dahmer.''
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Title Annotation:Review; U
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 21, 2002
Words:432
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