On-screen, Alan Rickman can be snarkier than pundit Christopher Hitchens giving an interview to the Vatican newspaper L'osservatore Romano. If you were disappointed by the postponement of the latest "Harry Potter" movie because you need a fix of Snape-condescension, you can get a tide-you-over from "Nobel Son," in which Rickman plays Eli Michaelson, a loathsome Los Angeles chemistry professor who has just won the Nobel Prize. Everyone hates him, even the family which loves him, sort of.
Before flying off to Stockholm to get his medal and a check for $2 million, his adult son, Barkley (Bryan Greenberg, TV's "One Tree Hill"), is kidnapped. The ransom demand is " wouldn't you know it " $2 million.
But nothing is as it seems in this improbable but darkly amusing thriller. Written by the director
Randall Miller ("Bottle Shock") in partnership with Jody Savin, the script turns around and bites its own tail like a rabid retriever. Victims and aggressors change places until you don't know which characters to believe. Take my advice. Don't believe any of them.
Mary Steenburgen ("Four Christmases") is along as the mother, and you may never have seen her play a character this crafty and sharp. Bill Pullman ("You Kill Me") is a cop friend of hers who might be willing to do just about anything to get her out of her lousy home life. Eliza Dushku makes her old part on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," the manic Faith, look like the girl next door. Watch, too, for Danny DeVito, Ted Danson and Ernie Hudson.
"Nobel Son" isn't a great comic thriller, but there's nothing like a heaping helping of Rickman arrogance for the holidays.