Nicolas Cage plays a surveillance specialist hired to determine whether a snuff film found in the safe of a recently deceased Pennsylvania millionaire is authentica job that leads him into the seamier recesses of the porn industry on both coasts. The director of this creepy wide-screen thriller is Joel Schumacher, who will surely live in infamy for Batman and Robin; he seems much more in charge this time, maybe because he has something to work with. The sturdy script is by Andrew Kevin Walker, the former Tower Records cashier who also wrote Seven, and there’s a similar impulse here to rub our noses in terminal slime and evil. The desire for retribution that’s honored so unambiguously may be morally based, but it’s the morality of Mickey Spillane, and I wonder if the defense of vigilante justice in Schumacher’s earlier A Time to Kill is more than just a coincidence. I can’t say I warmed to the results, but I was solidly held for the film’s two hours, and the secondary castincluding Joaquin Phoenix, Peter Stormare, Amy Morton, and James Gandolfiniis unusually sharp; with Catherine Keener, Anthony Heald, and Chris Bauer. (JR)
Wes Anderson’s second feature has some of the charm and youthful comic energy of its predecessor (Bottle Rocket), also coscripted by Owen Wilson, but it also represents a quantum leap. Jason Schwartzman plays an ambitious working-class tenth-grader who’s flunking out of a private school–the Rushmore of the title–because he’s too engrossed in extracurricular activities. To make matters worse, he develops a crush on a young widow who’s a grammar-school teacher (Olivia Williams). His two best friends are a schoolmate who’s much younger and a disaffected millionaire (Bill Murray) who’s much older, and part of the lift of this movie is that it creates a utopian democracy among different age groups. Things come to a crisis when the millionaire becomes the hero’s romantic rival. Stylistically fresh and full of sweetness that never cloys, this is contemporary Hollywood filmmaking at its near best. Biograph, Esquire, Evanston, Lake, Lincoln Village. –Jonathan Rosenbaum
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.
Raul Ruiz’s first mainstream release, which is getting its Chicago premiere at an art house rather than a multiplex, may not be one of his best — given his hundred or so shorts and features, there’s a lot of competition, and this is one of the rare Ruiz movies scripted by someone else. But it certainly provides some provocative and enjoyable jolts. Anne Parillaud plays a professional assassin in Seattle who dreams she’s a vulnerable newlywed honeymooning in the Caribbean and recovering from a rape; she also plays a vulnerable bride who dreams she’s an assassin. William Baldwin plays the significant other of both women, bearing the same name, and the contrapuntal play between Parillaud the victimizer and Parillaud the victim is pushed to dizzying extremes. Beautifully shot by Robby Muller, with periodic allusions in the score (by Ruiz regular Jorge Arriagada) to Bernard Herrmann’s work for Hitchcock, this head-scratching thriller should keep you entertained throughout, at least if you’re feeling adventurous. Ruiz didn’t even have final cut, but he clearly enjoyed himself making this film. Duane Poole wrote the distinctly Ruizian script, featuring twists at every turn, and the costars include Graham Greene and Bulle Ogier. Music Box, Friday through Thursday, February 5 through 11. – Jonathan Rosenbaum