Stop tooting Oscar horns, please. Michael Clayton is way over-hyped. It is a capable legal thriller, but it moves at a glacial pace and the fine, 1970’s-style character development has no 1970’s-style emotional payoff. Oh, and George Clooney wears too much 1980’s-style eyeliner.

Michael Clayton (Clooney) is the water carrier at a big Manhattan law firm — a so-called ‘fixer’ — and his middle age is not what he wanted. Divorced, barely tolerated by his young son and generally despised by everyone else — his life is crumbling like the restaurant he tried to open. But he gets a piece of leverage in the form of a document that proves a farm fertilizer company knowingly sold a deadly chemical.

There are very few twists and no turns as Clayton mopes his way through the mystery, trying to understand why a big partner (Tom Wilkinson) suddenly went bonkers in the case. It’s never explained to my satisfaction — a manic-depressive who goes off his meds doesn’t quite seem to match scope of the madness.

Continue reading about Michael Clayton (contains spoilers)…Questions: Does Michael Clayton stop to look at the horses because he saw the drawing in Realm & Conquest, because they are near where the hit-and-run occurred or because he is just captivated by the apocalyptic image? Question: How did Clayton know Tilda Swinton’s character was behind the cover-up and carbomb?

The Clayton character wishes he was Rick from Casablanca, but he lacks more than an Ilsa. Writer/director Tony Gilroy never challenges him with anything that can’t be overcome in a quick, conflict-less scene. The movie feels like a genre exercise, not a genre workout.