Though it loses some of its steam before the end, this is an uncommonly affecting and unhackneyed story about a friendship between two alienated 11-year-old boys from neighboring middle-class, single-parent homes, one of whom has AIDS. Working from an original script by Robert Kuhn that mixes comedy and tragedy as if they were kissing cousins, actor Peter Horton makes an impressive directorial debut. Though the story is provisionally about intolerance of and ignorance about AIDS, it focuses on the boys’ friendship and adventures–including a Huckleberry Finn-like escape down the river in search of the cure of the title–and the actors do an exceptional job with it, especially Brad Renfro (The Client) and Annabella Sciorra. With Joseph Mazzello, Diana Scarwid, and, in a part that seems to have been severely trimmed, Bruce Davison. Ford City, Norridge, Gardens, Golf Glen, Lincoln Village, Water Tower.
Apart from its plot structure, there are scarcely any traces left of the Henry Hathaway noir thriller scripted by Ben Hecht and Charles Lederer that this supposedly reprises; but even though it proceeds in fits and starts, it’s still a pretty good crime thriller on its own terms. Director Barbet Schroeder (Reversal of Fortune, Single White Female), a onetime French New Wave producer who’s done a better job of adapting to the Hollywood mainstream than any of his former colleagues, does an able job with Richard Price’s script about an ex-con (David Caruso) who gets pulled back into crime by both the mob and the police, the latter forcing him to become a police spy. The movie never quite discovers a style of its own, but it manages to tell a pretty good story about contemporary corruption inside the law as well as outside, and even if Nicolas Cage’s edgy portrait of a psycho criminal can’t hold a candle to Richard Widmark’s in the original, the secondary castincluding Samuel L. Jackson, Stanley Tucci, Michael Rapaport, Ving Rhames, Helen Hunt, and Kathryn Erbedoes a nice job of filling out the canvas. (JR)
A sensationalist grunge festival spiked with dollops of poetry on the sound track, provisionally derived (by Bryan Goluboff) from Jim Carroll’s autobiographical book of the same title. Leonardo DiCaprio does an impressive job as the hero-narrator, but the parade of horrors offered by the script and Scott Kalvert’s direction sheds a lot more heat than light on the problems of a Catholic teenager in New York City who plays basketball, becomes hooked on drugs, and enters a life of crime and degradation. Significantly, the movie keeps the hero’s reformation offscreen as well as unexplained; it’s more interested in shock effects than in candor or elucidation. With Bruno Kirby, Lorraine Bracco, Ernie Hudson, Patrick McGaw, James Madio, and Mark Wahlberg (1995, 102 min.). (JR)