A veritable film festival of macho self-pity from actor-turned-writer/director Sean Penn, adapting a novel by David Rabe. One tender-tough alcoholic blowhard (Jack Nicholson at his most insufferable, allowed to cry at regular intervals for Oscar consideration), a divorced jewelry store owner who hangs out in strip joints like a Cassavetes hero, is determined to kill the hit-and-run driver who killed his daughter years before and is now emerging from prison. (David Morse, who plays the driver, gives a relatively sharp and understated performancefor me the only bearable thing in the movie). Wallowing in pretension, the movie even tries pornographically to milk our awareness of Nicholson and Angelica Huston’s old relationship when their characters converse as a former couple. With Robin Wright and Piper Laurie. (JR)
This starts off as a dopey (if well-intentioned) racial allegory and then gets somewhat better, simply because its casting winds up saying more than its script. In a universe where white people are treated like black people and vice versa, a loyal factory worker (John Travolta) gets laid off by his wealthy, racist employer (Harry Belafonte); after struggling to regain his footing, the former worker winds up kidnapping his former boss. The best that can be said for writer-director Desmond Nakano’s rather abstract premise is that it becomes playable only after the viewer is persuaded to overlook it, and only because the class differences of Travolta and Belafonte wind up registering more strongly than their racial differences do. Produced by Lawrence Benderwho brought us Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, two other movies preoccupied with race that are equally unwilling to handle the subject directlythis settles down to being a watchable oddity that doesn’t really take off; with Kelly Lynch, Margaret Avery, and Tom Bower. (JR)
Unfolding in real time, from the moment a CPA (Johnny Depp) arrives at Los Angeles’s Union Station with his little girl to the moment 90 minutes or so later when a political assassination is supposed to occur in the Westin Bonaventure Hotel a few blocks away (the same hotel, if memory serves, that provided the climax for In the Line of Fire), this crackerjack paranoid thriller is a skillful example of what Hollywood used to do so well in the 40s and 50s, in sleepers like The Window and Don’t Bother to Knock. Working with a script by Patrick Sheane Duncan and Ebbe Roe Smith, producer-director John Badham, in his best film since Saturday Night Fever, does an able job of moving around his actors (including Christopher Walken, Charles S. Dutton, Peter Strauss, Roma Maffia, Gloria Reuben, and Marsha Mason). Despite a few lapses in judgment, this is a well-crafted exercise–and one, incidentally, that packs a pointed if unobtrusive punch about how both gubernatorial campaigns and fancy hotels are run. For my money, this is more fun than Speed–it keeps you in suspense without insulting your intelligence. Depp makes a likably offbeat action hero. Ford City, Webster Place, Bricktown Square, Golf Glen, Gardens, North Riverside, Burnham Plaza, McClurg Court, Lincoln Village.
What a novel idea for a movie: a black transit cop (Wesley Snipes) and a white transit cop (Woody Harrelson), foster brothers in love with the same woman (Jennifer Lopez), team up to rob a New York subway train carrying millions of dollars in receipts after their mean old boss (Robert Blake) fires them both. If you think you’ve already seen some version of this you’re right, though probably nothing so dumb or insulting to the viewer’s intelligence. Joseph Ruben (The Stepfather, Sleeping With the Enemy) directed a script by Doug Richardson and David Loughery; Chris Cooper costars. (JR)
Chic lesbian porn (and one fairly hot heterosexual session). A repressed woman engaged to a minister meets a female circus performer in a laundromat, and the two women set about exploring each other’s sensuality. Canadian writer-director Patricia Rozema (I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing) is an admirer of Bergman and Woody Allen, and like them she has a penchant for creating arty surfaces that pass for thought; this 1995 movie looks fine as long as you don’t think too much about it. With Pascale Bussieres, Henry Czerny, Rachael Crawford, David Fox, Don McKellar, and Tracy Wright. R, 96 min. (JR)