RATING |

Well, it's official - nobody's better at playing narcissistic megalomaniac rich guys than Michael Douglas.

For conformation, you don't have to wait for his Gordon Gekko reboot in September's "Wall Street" sequel. You get the full Michael right now in "Solitary Man," featuring Douglas as Ben, a disgraced businessman in the throes of colorful midlife(ish) self-destruction.

When we meet him, he has junked a great marriage (to Susan Sarandon), has imploded a string of successful car dealerships and seems determined to sabotage things with his new girlfriend (Mary-Louise Parker), a connected Upper East Sider who's the key to salvaging what remains of his life.

She foolishly leaves the libidinous Ben in charge of her foxy teen daughter (Imogen Poots) on a college visit, prompting an even more catastrophic series of events that leave the down-and-out Ben even downer and outer.

It's quite a train wreck, and he does all this without messing up his hair - Douglas is like the new Lee Remick, going from role to role, movie to movie, without ever changing his hairstyle.

Or even having it move. It's frosted and moussed to the point of immobility, even when he rolls out of bed in the morning to insult the divorcée with whom he's just slept.

Yep, he's a well-coiffed bastard, and no one does this better than Douglas, who in "Solitary Man" adds notes of desperation and self-awareness to the persona and makes the most of a slickly written script.

There are a series of tasty episodes wherein Douglas plays nicely off game co-stars - ex-wife Sarandon, put-upon daughter Jenna Fischer, college-aged protege Jesse Eisenberg and old friend Danny DeVito, the last associate Douglas has yet to alienate.

The script may be too clever at times, but the actors are so good, the scenes to smoothly directed and the rest of the summer movies so phenomenally bad, I'm not going to begrudge "Solitary Man" the sin of being occasionally glib.

Less forgivable is the way "Solitary Man" seeks to ascribe all of Douglas' failings and faults - seemingly deeply rooted in character and personality - to a single late-in-life event.

When the causal agent is revealed, it feels like a cheat, an annotation that sucks the mystery from what might have been an the enigmatic drama of a man who has it all and tosses it away.

What you remember, though, is Douglas, still a "Wonder Boy," undiminished and maybe even improved a bit by age.