By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Aug 05, 2001 at 5:10 AM

Just when you thought it was safe to return to the multiplex, along comes "Original Sin." I'd be shocked if a film this bad is released anytime in the next four months, and nothing as bad has been released so far this year. And that's saying something. Frankly, I'm getting sick of writing negative reviews, but this movie is, well, really bad.

Antonio Banderas stars as Luis Vargas, a wealthy coffee plantation owner in Mexico. Lonely and wanting a family, Luis orders a bride from America. Later, he explains that he desired an American woman because they think of the future, while in his country they only ponder the past.

The woman, Julia Russell (Angelina Jolie), turns out to be beautiful, much to the surprise of Luis. He was expecting someone not so attractive because she sent him a photograph of another woman. It seems Julia worried that a man might love her only for her beauty. She, too, learned that it's what's on the inside that counts.

To even things out, Luis lied to her as well. Being filthy rich, he feared a woman would only love him for his money. So he told Julia in a letter (they were pen pals before she arrives) that he is a lowly, poor clerk.

That same night, Luis and Julia are married. They get to know each other and fall madly in love. They are headed for happily ever after, until one day Julia disappears with all of Luis' money. She is not who she claimed to be, and soon Luis is hunting her down with the help of a private detective (Thomas Jane), who came to check on Julia at her sister's request.

This is not even the halfway point of the movie. It still has a long, long way to go. Plot twists are thrown around and secrets are revealed every few minutes. Not that you can't see them coming. Thanks to not-so-subtle foreshadowing and lazy writing, every moment is telegraphed and easy to predict.

Director Michael Cristofer's ("Gia") screenplay, based on the novel "Waltz Into Darkness" by Cornell Woolrich, is the movie's biggest problem. There is no attempt to set up either Luis or Julia, so we know nothing about them. And the dialogue is the corniest and most unintentionally laughable you're likely to hear all year. Soap operas offer stronger characters and better dialogue.

There's a lot of gratuitous nudity, which might get some people into the theater. Jolie, who starred in "Gia," must feel comfortable getting nude for Cristofer. She is in the buff three or four times throughout the movie.

The acting does nothing to offset the weak script and characters. Jolie has a mysterious accent (odd since she plays an American! -ed.) that comes and goes randomly and gives a performance that's all over the place. She's either overdoing it or not doing much of anything, and she never strikes the right note. Banderas and Jane are more consistent and give it their all, but can do nothing with the material they are given.

At two hours in length, "Original Sin" refuses to end. It keeps throwing on twists and turns and goes on much longer than it should. You're likely to check your watch an hour into this snoozer. This is the kind of movie that is either made for cable or goes straight to video. The only real mystery is why a movie this bad is being released in theaters.

Grade: F

"Original Sin" opened everywhere on Fri., Aug. 3.