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Film review: Disclosure

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Chief among those excesses, however, is a very R-rated sex scene in the first half-hour, which sets up the central story line and is so explicit that it puts the film's early stages in "Fatal Attraction"-"Basic Instinct" territory.

So, it's only natural that Michael Douglas stars in a variation on his characters in those movies, a burned-out, aging yuppie who is driven to extremes after being harassed by a nasty femme fatale.

In this case, Douglas plays an executive for a high-profile Seattle computer company, where the staff is made up largely of cutthroat climbers. He commutes by ferry from his idyllic, away-from-the-city home, where he lives with his lawyer wife and young children.

As the film opens, he is expecting to receive an important promotion and hurriedly heads for work. When he arrives, however, it becomes apparent that the promotion is going elsewhere. The president of the company (Donald Sutherland, at his most unctuous) is giving it to an "outsider," who turns out to be Demi Moore, with whom Douglas had "a thing" some years earlier. In fact, it was a hot-and-heavy romance and they even lived together for a time.

Moore gets the promotion, becomes Douglas' boss and calls him in for a private, late-night meeting on her first day. She makes a sexual pass and he struggles against her - oh, so feebly. Still, he does eventually run from the scene of the crime before actual intercourse occurs, prompting Moore to scream that she is going to ruin his career if he doesn't come back.

Foolishly, though not unexpectedly, Douglas doesn't relate the incident to his wife (Caroline Goodall, who played Schindler's wife in "Schindler's List"). And the next day, when he returns to work, he finds that Moore has filed a complaint, contending that Douglas sexually harassed her.

So, Douglas seeks out a lawyer (Roma Maffia, who played a reporter in "The Paper") who explains to him that sexual harassment isn't about sex - it's about power. And, in a way, she also speaks to the film's agenda. Despite the presence of that graphic sex scene early on, this is really a movie about how sexual politics in the workplace are about wielding power.

Soon, Douglas and Moore are squaring off against each other, separating camps within the organization and gradually revealing ulterior motives. With the help of a secret friend who leaves cryptic e-mail computer messages like "nothing is what it seems," Douglas searches out the truth, eventually using that virtual reality technology for the film's most dazzling moment. (The cinematography and set-design here are also eye-popping.)

And screenwriter Paul Attana- sio ("Quiz Show") adapts Michael Crichton's best seller with a very high quotient of wit, as clever and amusing dialogue abounds.

However, there is an early indication that logic is not going to be this film's strong suit, as Douglas rushes to an important meeting and his daughter asks what that is around his neck. "It's a necktie, sweetie," Douglas replies. OK, so computer executives in Seattle don't wear neckties - but his daughter's never seen one? Has she been kept in a closet? Story machinations go downhill from there and you will, from time to time, find yourself asking, "Why didn't he just . . . ?" or "Why would she . . . ?"

But if you can turn off your Vulcan circuits and ignore illogical loopholes, "Disclosure" generally delivers the goods.

The film's top performances come from Maffia and Goodall, wonderful in supporting roles that brim with the film's best dialogue. Also good is standup comic Dennis Miller as one of Douglas' co-workers, though he virtually disappears during the film's second half. Douglas is also quite good in the lead, though he knows this role a bit too well by now.

The film's single worst element is Moore, and it's probably not her fault. She's strapped with a role that is all "type," a superficial femme fetale with no story to tell. Her character is the film's ultimate cheap shot, and if the reverse sex discrimination plot doesn't bother you, her character certainly will.

But director Barry Levinson ("Rain Man," "Avalon," "Bugsy") knows how to tell a story, even one as simplistic as this one. And he successfully builds suspense where there really shouldn't be so much. If Douglas were running for his life - instead of his job - it couldn't be more gripping.

"Disclosure" is rated R, primarily for that sex scene. There is also some profanity and vulgarity.