Rick Alverson’s Entertainment

There are some films that just aren’t for everybody, and seem to have even been fashioned to deliberately repel a certain demographic, as if to weed out those unwilling to take a trip down the weird end of the street and serve as a litmus test to determine who will stand-fast. Folks like John Waters, Todd Solondz and Lars Von Trier are prime examples of artists who traffic in such cheerfully provocative, knowingly inflammatory ventures and now Rick Alverson is well on his way with an eerie, uncomfortably abstract mood piece called Entertainment that I saw a long time ago and recently caught up with, and let me tell you it’s just as fucking bizarre as I remember. Alverson wrote this alongside Tim Heidecker himself and their buddy actor Gregg Turkington, who graduated with honours from the proverbial Tim & Eric Theatre Of Shock & Awe and works frequently with the two, so his badge of bizarre was squarely pinned to his chest before churning out this relentlessly off-putting curio of dust-bowl doldrums, against type cameos, agonizing awkwardness, surreal dreamscapes and nightmarish atmosphere. The film follows pitiful nebbish ‘The Comedian’ (Turkington), a would be standup comic with no audience on a tour to nowhere somewhere in the desolate American southwest. His jokes are excruciatingly cringe, his onstage personality is a grating head-scratcher, his doubting manager (John C. Reilly in a hilariously deadpan cameo) subtly begs him to tone the weirdness down, and just overall this guy’s life seems like a dead end that’s swiftly leading to a deader end. His one respite and glimmer of hope is infrequent phones calls where he leaves forlorn voicemails to an estranged daughter that we never see, perhaps because she never existed at all and it’s his last ounce of conviction to cry for help into an abysmal void. He runs into many characters along the way played by the likes of Heidecker himself, Dean Stockwell, Tye Sheridan, Amy Seimetz and Michael Cera as an impossibly creepy dude that he has an icky run-in with in a men’s bathroom. Many will find this to be a frustrating, confounding, empty, disquieting experience and that’s fine, I would be worried if *everyone* liked it. I admit that this particular flavour of weird isn’t typically my bag and that chunks of it were lost on me, like his interminable bouts of caustic and repulsive verbal digression on the standup stage. However, when the perception and focus shifts over to his ponderous meanderings in the Mojave desert and the incredibly effective, soul shaking original score by Robert Donne I got a real sense of this character’s waywardness, disconnect from everything around him and complete, utter loneliness, and on that front I was able to connect with the film. It’s unique, it’s weird, it’s darkly funny in a sort of brittle, curdled way and uses illogical, jagged sensibilities to explore an artist whose work alienates and humiliates him. You will either vibe with this intensely or be wholly turned off, there’s no real middle-ground.

-Nate Hill

THE P.T. ANDERSON FILES: BOOGIE NIGHTS (1997)

It’s a strange thing to consider but for all of the power that sex wields to start wars, topple the powerful, and put people into financial or personal ruin, the porn industry is small time. That’s not to say that the porn business doesn’t make boatloads of cash. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I mean, if one really wants to believe that the only things subsidizing the porn industry are the spending habits of amoral perverts, that person may want to try and show their math on that assertion if only to sooner realize that there just aren’t that many degenerates wandering the earth. In other words, a whole lot of people you encounter at work, in the streets, and (gasp) at church have at least dipped a toe or, more likely, engaged in a full baptism into one of the four corners in the pool of the sex industry. But yet, for all of the dough the films generate, there are precious few hardcore actors or directors that have been able to transcend the hermetic shell of the adult film world either in name or deed. For every John Holmes, Ron Jeremy, or Sasha Grey, there are a thousand others whose stopover into the world of porn occurs because it’s a place that, if they can’t build a legacy, they can definitely make a buck.

It is because of this that, despite actually working at a General Cinemas theater at the time, I’m unsure as to what went through the public’s mind when they saw the expertly cut and energetic trailers for Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights prior to its release in the summer of 1997. Here was a film that was going to be playing in the multiplexes and malls across America that would, in seemingly frank terms, follow the story of an ersatz John Holmes as he navigated the literal ups and downs in the pornographic film industry in the 1970’s and 80’s. Would America be able to reckon with its very real attachment to pornography to feel comfortable enough to go and see it and give it the respect it deserved or would the film flop given the culture’s mind-bogglingly puritanical attitude towards THIS KIND OF SEX™️? If there is anything to challenge the accepted notion that sex sells, it’s to invite people to sit through two-and-a-half hours of it.

But Boogie Nights was a hit and, surprisingly, a quite sizable one. Anchored in the front by a dynamite and keenly sensitive central performance from a then-risky Mark Wahlberg and, in the back, by a jaw-dropping return to form by Burt Reynolds with incredible, fearless performances by Julianne Moore, Heather Graham, John C. Reilly, Don Cheadle, William H. Macy, and Philip Seymour Hoffman (among others) between them, Boogie Nights was received as a rollicking, exhilarating American epic that was an intoxicating mix of Scorsese-like rhythms and editing being navigated by Demme/Ashby-like heart across an Altman-like canvas; the most joyous piece of pop filmmaking since Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction three years earlier.

Boogie Nights appeared at just the right time in America to make the splash that it did. The years of peace and economic expansion under the Clinton administration turned the 90’s into a freewheeling party which saw the birth of the internet and, also, a certain lax in our social mores as latchkey kids from the 70’s who grew up sneaking peeks at their parents’ poorly hidden porn stashes rolled into their twenties with a more permissive, NBD attitude towards Boogie Nights’s subject matter. All of the moments within the film that focused on the hilariously crude approach to adult filmmaking (and its spot-on recreations of the final product) were met with the appropriately knowing chuckles of an audience that couldn’t do anything but acknowledge that they understood exactly what they were looking at and, in the words of Elliott Gould in The Long Goodbye, it was (at long last) ok with them. And it was the good fortune of everyone cast in the film that the worm of American culture had somewhat turned as Boogie Nights is a virtual “who’s who” of talent that was just beginning to crest a professional summit out of indie-world and the film’s success would propel almost every single one of them to mainstream fame.

One of the things that has continued to work in Boogie Nights’s favor almost a quarter century later is its anticipation of the succeeding generation’s devotion to 100% acceptance and the encouragement of full positivity among its peers. To this end, Anderson doesn’t excuse his characters’ flaws but is ultimately sympathetic to all of them (save and except Diggler’s mother, Joanna Gleason in a ferociously monstrous performance). The characters are small time but, almost presciently, exist in a world of total support and encouragement; one in which, from the point of view of those on the ground in the actual time and place, seemed like more of a legitimate enterprise than, say, selling blowjobs on Hollywood Boulevard for a hot meal and/or somewhere to sleep. So maybe it’s technically incorrect (and borderline irresponsible) for Julianne Moore’s mother-surrogate, Amber Waves, to fawn over Wahlberg’s decidedly not-very-talented (but massively endowed) Dirk Diggler as “so fucking talented,” but is it really worse than how his actual mother treats him in the neatly trimmed “normal” world of Torrance? Sure, Jessie St. Vincent’s (Melora Walters) paintings are uniquely awful but, really, are they any more subpar than some of the tacky prints that adorned the walls of suburbia at the same time? Are those adult award shows any more moronic and stupidly self-congratulatory than the Oscars? Certainly, the ephemeral static attached to the porn industry doesn’t make it look like the most positive environment to some people who live nine-to-five existences but, as the film makes crystal clear, the need-driven support structure within it is mighty alluring for the socially outcast, the marginalized, and the abused.

And Boogie Nights was never going to be a movie that reveled in its orgiastic pleasures for its own sake. Much like Goodfellas, there is a real “set ‘em up and knock ‘em down” formula to the film’s structure. The film’s first half looks like a total blast of wanton abandon; an effervescent celebration of the largesse of the sexual revolution replete with a pulsating soundtrack and the promise of a perpetual California sunset. As an audience member, you WANT to be there, even if you’re just hanging out in a lounge chair poolside while drinking a margarita while everything else swirls around you. But, sweet Christ, brutal is the comedown that occurs in the second half of the film when the organic pleasures of the 70’s are replaced with the synthetic coke high of the 80’s. A nonstop stack of nightmares including a murder-suicide, crippling addiction, accompanying sexual dysfunction, mounting legal challenges, the cold yet practical move from film to video, and violent moments of terrifying, rock-bottom sobriety show that Boogie Nights is just as eager to argue the downslope as convincingly as it does the ascension, though without any kind of sanctimony in regards to its characters’ plights.

But as much as Robert Altman utilized the titular city to examine America as a whole in 1975’s Nashville, Anderson is using the porn industry in the bracketed time frame to explore the fluid boundaries of family much like he did in Hard Eight the year before and he would in Magnolia two years later. And, to be sure, the world of Boogie Nights remains his best Petri dish in which to study this dynamic as the film’s libertine atmosphere mixes with its members’ outcast and discarded statuses which create disarmingly moving and powerful moments throughout the film, most especially those involving any combination of Wahlberg, Reynolds, and/or Moore.

And so it is that Boogie Nights endures not just because it’s a naughtily hilarious and dramatically satisfying film, well-remembered by Gen-Xers who pine for the sun-kissed days of the mid-90’s. It endures due to the fact that it was written and directed by a guy not yet twenty eight who could resist the easy temptation of sniggering at its subject matter in favor of focusing on the longer view that included poignancy, care, and familial love shared among its characters, ensuring that it would continue to pay dividends to its audience well into the future.

Kong: Skull Island

What’s everyone’s beef with Kong: Skull Island? Not tophat n’ coattails, high-tea cinema enough? I’m joking but I’ve waded through so much negativity surrounding this film over the years that I avoided it, and when I finally came round to watching it I found a perfectly thrilling, super entertaining monster flick that I have little to no issues with. The 70’s Viet Nam CCR aesthetic is an interesting choice for the Kong myth and I think it works, as John Goodman’s half insane journalist leads Samuel L. Jackson’s all the way insane military commander and his platoon on a voyage to fabled Skull Island, joined by Tom Hiddleston essentially playing a cross between Indiana Jones/James Bond and badass Brie Larson? How could that not be fun? Throw in and all the way insane and then some John C. Reilly as a downed WWII pilot surviving on the island and heavily channeling his Steve Brule character from Tim & Eric and I once again ask you, how could this not be fun? Then there’s Kong himself, who is an absolute unit here and way huger than I ever remember him being, measuring in at several hundred feet tall at least and fiercely protecting his kingdom from an armada of weird giant reptilian dragon things. There’s also giant water Buffalo, spooky natives and these bizarre stilt-walking arachnid nightmares that had me on edge and demonstrated some really impressive VFX. Jackson steals the show as far as human talent goes, playing a soldier who never saw enough combat in Nam to satisfy him before the war ended, is looking for a good old fashioned dust up and lives to regret being so eager before going completely, certifiably bonkers and trying to singlehandedly take down the big guy, on his own home turf no less. Throw in a solid supporting cast including Shea Wigham, Toby Kebbell, John Ortiz, Erin Moriarty and a sly cameo from Richard Jenkins and you’ve got one all star lineup, with the MVP moment going to Reilly as he hilariously delivers the film’s best line and one allowed F-bomb in true Steve Brule fashion. Kong delivers the goods too, he’s an angry, very physically lethal sonofabitch big ass monkey who doesn’t take kindly to anyone threatening his homeland, be they big scaly monsters, the US military or other. It’s also very subtly antiwar, but just enough so that it does feel preachy and still knows how to have a blast. Pulpy in the dialogue realm, brilliant red n’ orange tinged in the cinematography department, retro steampunk vibe to some of the costuming and deadly fucking fun on the giant creature mayhem side of things. While Peter Jackson’s monumental 2005 version will likely always be my favourite version of King Kong, this Skull Island iteration is a flippin’ knockout of popcorn entertainment, audacious visuals and rock em sock em jungle war-games. Great stuff.

-Nate Hill

Curtis Hanson’s The River Wild

Curtis Hanson’s The River Wild is one of those cheerfully formulaic, undemanding 90’s adventure flicks that you can crush consecutively like a case of lite beer, they’re always easy breezy good fun if done properly. This one sees a classic suburban family head for a river rafting expiration led by ex-guide mom (Meryl Streep), reluctantly joined by workaholic dad (David Strathairn) and enthusiastically headed up by their kid (Joseph Mazzello from Jurassic Park). The vacation is going pretty well until they run into a trio of career criminals led by evil Kevin Bacon on the run after a heist, who plan to use the narrow canyons of the river to escape, but they’re without the proverbial paddle of rafting experience and need Streep’s expertise, so they promptly kidnap the whole family and things get pretty gnarly. So the film overall is pretty average for a thriller, exciting enough but nothing to truly cream your knickers over. Streep is sterling great as always and her performance feels almost too good for this film, probably because her talents are obviously a bit above the material. Bacon is impressively evil as the conniving, psychopathic asshole who makes their lives hell, he’s always been able to slip in and out of good guy/bad guy roles with such ease. Strathairn is usually terrific but somehow comes across a bit bland here, John C. Reilly is effective and low key hilarious as Bacon’s hopeless dumb-fuck cohort and there’s appearances from Bill Lucking, Liz Hoffman, Diane Delano, Glenn Moreshower and Benjamin Bratt too. Gorgeous Montana scenery accompanied by a notable Jerry Goldsmith score add to the fun. It’s a good thriller, not a great one.

-Nate Hill

Peter Segal’s Anger Management

Adam Sandler’s career is composed of a few key elements: unfunny trash, comedy gold and a small handful of serious dramas. Anger Management falls into the second category and is an absolute blast but it’s mostly thanks to a batshit crazy, scene stealing virtuoso Jack Nicholson rather than anything Sandler does. It doesn’t hurt that the film is packed to the brim with hilarious cameos and supporting talent as well. Sandler is Dave Buznik, a meek businessman who gets walked all over by his toad of a boss (Kurt Fuller) and constantly reminded by his girlfriend (Marisa Tomei, about a hundred acres out of his league) to stand up for himself. After finally losing his cool (sort of) on a plane he gets slapped with a court order to do twenty hours of anger management treatment under the deranged supervision of unconventional therapist Dr. Buddy Rydell (Nicholson). Rydell is a thoroughly weird dude who insinuates himself into Dave’s life, hits on his girl, frequently loses his cool and displays a near constant stream of bizarre, inexplicable behaviour. There’s a reason for all that, revealed in the film’s monumentally implausible twist that falls apart under any scrutinizing back down the chain of events in this narrative, but this isn’t the type of film to nitpick like that. Nicholson is a goddamn treat here and gets so many wacky moments I wish the film was more centred on him, he’s hilarious to watch whether having a volcanic tantrum and launching his plate of breakfast against a wall, forcing Sandler to sing ‘I Feel Pretty’ from West Side Story or obliterating some poor dude’s car with a baseball bat just because he boxed him into a parking spot. The ironic thing about Sandler is that he’s touted as a comedian but he’s just not funny, and the appeal from any film he stars in always comes from the other actors in it who steal it from him without fail. There’s quite a few here including Heather Graham, Allen Covert, a hotheaded John Turturro, Luis Guzman, Krista Allen and January Jones as a pair of rambunctious lesbian porn stars, Kevin Nealon, Rudy Giuliani, Derek Jeter, John C. Reilly, Harry Dean Stanton and Woody Harrelson in a hysterical encore cameo as a transvestite named Galaxia. The film works with its manic energy, hectic ensemble cast and Nicholson’s dysfunctional tirade of a performance, and is one of the funniest comedies I’ve seen recently.

-Nate Hill

Gregory Jacob’s Criminal

Look up ‘hidden gem’ in the dictionary and you’ll find a one sheet for Gregory Jacobs’s Criminal. Alongside many others, but you catch my drift. This is a virtually unknown grifter flick that is smart, funny and really acidic and unpredictable in spots. It also has that low key ‘small movie’ feel, which is welcome in a con artist flick anyways because you can ditch the big budget gloss and focus more on story and character instead. John C. Reilly plays a middle aged con man here who, simply put, is a huge asshole, but has charmed his way through the hustling game and made some serious cash. He’s saddled with a rookie youngster (Diego Luna) who wants to learn the ropes, but the old guy basically wants nothing to do with him. It’s a sour partnership that never seems to quite gel, which provides suspense as to when the back stabbing will start. With the help of a feisty colleague (Maggie Gyllenhaal), their plan is to rob a wealthy, intimidating Scottish currency collector (the great Peter Mullan) for millions, using a carefully implemented bag of tricks and a vast contact network of fellow tricksters. As is the case with all great caper flicks, nothing is as it seems and the plot revelations are fast and heavy, in this one’s case packing a whallop of an unconventional twist ending. The terrific supporting cameo cast includes Deborah Van Valkenburgh, Brent Sexton, Michael Shannon, Malik Yoba, character actor Jack Conley and more. This is a hugely entertaining film, with an unlikeable protagonist whose arc is really a curious one to watch. Director Jacobs has only helmed two other flick, the Magic Mike sequel and the Emily Blunt horror vehicle Wind Chill, but he really shows a flair for fun exposition and labyrinthine plot turns here, as well as bringing out interesting qualities in his carefully picked actors. Steven Soderbergh also did uncredited screenplay work, which only adds to the capability and slickness. A treat.

-Nate Hill

Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie

Roger Ebert made it clear that Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie doesn’t even make it into his most hated canon of flicks (a hard enclosure to gain access to as the guy was a pretty fair critic right to the end). A small part of me sees the exasperation in a guy who took his cinema seriously. But most of me, especially the parts that enjoy humour so off the wall and bizarre that I’d be labelled just as far on the spectrum as the two demented wunderkinds behind this ninety minute freak show, loves it. You have to be a special kind of deranged to enjoy Tim and Eric’s brand of humour; the words abstract, surreal and extremely bizarre come to mind, but that doesn’t begin to cover the maniacal parade they’ve whipped up here. One thing does fascinate me though: since the very beginning when they first got their show rolling (Great Job!), they have been a magnet for some of the most prominent and prolific talent in Hollywood’s comedy arena, scoring cameos from the likes of Will Ferrell, Jeff Goldblum, John C. Reilly and more. That tells me that a lot more folks than you might think have an innate affinity for this extreme brand of shock humour and madness than would care to admit, and that when it comes down to it, humans organically produce their own humour in this weird, abstract fashion that’s much more natural than most scripted, constructed comedy we see in film. The humour here is so far into the stratosphere of weirdness that it understandably made a lot of folks uncomfortable, but that just makes the whole thing funnier. The ‘plot’ is just a series of running gags loosely connected by Tim & Eric owing a billion dollars to the Schlaaaaang Corporation (run by William Atherton and Robert Loggia in one of his last movie roles). They skip town and decide to take up Will Ferrell on his offer to be caretakers of a giant dilapidated shopping mall, after a few back to back viewings of Top Gun. The mall is host to a whole array of weirdos and insane people including slightly retarded Taquito (John C. Reilly), snarky sword salesman Allen Bishopman (Will Forte), a man who sells used toilet paper, Bob Ross, a bunch of hobos, oh and a wolf too, among others. Don’t expect it to make much sense, that’s not the Tim and Eric way. Just expect to be shocked, disgusted, disoriented, appalled, and if you’re tuned into the right frequency, to laugh your ass off. Their outright deliberation in pushing boundaries of taste and coherency no doubt had people running from the theatre and demanding money back in droves, but as Mia Wallace iconically put it, don’t be a 🔲. The real endurance test is when Ray Wise (Twin Peak’s Leland Palmer) shows up as a nutso self help guru whose brand of treatment (Shrim!) really goes to some gag-worthy places. Other notable cameos include Jeff Goldblum as (wait for it) ‘Chef Goldblum’, Johnny Depp, Zach Galifianakis, Mark Cuban and Bob Odenkirk. It’s a weird world, and in a genre that routinely isn’t weird enough, plays it safe and sticks to the often bland script, we need guys like Tim and Eric to shake shit up, open their bag of tricks and assault audiences with their very specific, certifiable brand of comedy. Buckle up.

-Nate Hill

Stephen King’s Dolores Claiborne

Stephen King’s Dolores Claiborne is one of those ones I held off on watching for years, for whatever reason. It’s an absolute corker though, a well written horror story of the most human kind, finding the darkest corners of the psyche and blowing them up full scale for a morbid effect that’s altogether far more unsettling than any ghosts or supernatural stuff. Ominous grey clouds roll in over picturesque Maine (actually Nova Scotia, the sneaky bastards), as former housewife and in-home nurse Dolores (Kathy Bates in one show stopper) is accused of a heinous crime: murdering her sick and elderly employee, a rich old goat (Judy Parfitt) who’s put her through decades of hard labour. Dolores’s daughter Selena (Jennifer Jason Leigh) returns home from a high profile journalist gig in the big Apple just in time for old wounds to be seared open. As a highly biased Detective (devilish Christopher Plummer) grills her on every aspect of the case, the narrative arcs back to Selena’s childhood years with Dolores and her monster of a father (David Strathairn, well out of his comfort zone and loving it), a tyrannical alcoholic whose ‘accidental’ death casts a heavy shadow on Bates, a pattern to be deciphered deliciously by both Leigh and the viewer. Things are not only not what they seem, but just about as far away from what we’re presented as possible, and when the final curtain lifts, it’s a wicked series of revelations to look back upon. King is undeniably the master of all things horror under the sun, but what he really excels at is how the lines blur between external demonization, the forces that exist out there in the night and the simple fact that humans are capable of despicable acts, whether by design or influence. It’s not a pretty tale, especially during the lurid, violent third act, but what a masterfully told tale it is, with expert director Taylor Hackford pulling at the reins, Danny Elfman undoing his mischievous aesthetic for a score that’s deep and dark, cinematographer Gabriel Beristain probing the inlets and harbours of eastern Canada with a surefire lens that creates atmosphere to spare, and every actor firing on all cylinders, including nice sideline work from Eric Bogosian, Ellen Muth, Bob Gunton, Wayne Robson and John C. Reilly. It’s interesting to observe the contrasts in visual style as well: For the most part, this is a moody, misty locale played dead straight, with no touches of the surreal or ‘out there’. Then in the third act there’s this crazy sequence during an eclipse (which bares uncanny similarities to this year’s gem of King adaptation, Gerald’s Game, I might add) that goes full on horror mode, dials down the realism and reminds us that this is after all a Stephen King story, and at some point things are liable to get weird. This one aims to please and prickle the senses of even the most stoic fan of deranged thrillers, and is a terrific funhouse to get lost in.

-Nate Hill

Ole Bornedal’s Nightwatch 


It’s always curious to me when directors remake their own projects. Sometimes it seems redundant and risky, and one wonders what compels them to revisit already trodden territory. In Ole Bornedal’s case it’s a creepy murder mystery called Nightwatch, made once in his native language of Danish, and again as a slicked up Hollywood version featuring some heavy acting talent and a reworked script by none other than Steven Soderbergh. I’ve only seen the newer one, and despite some awkward, clunky moments in the narrative, it can get pretty squirmy and frightening when it wants to, especially any scene involving a young Ewan McGregor stuck alone on a morgue graveyard shift. Creepy concept, and in some scenes it’s really milked to full effect, but there’s also few really silly and unnecessary subplots, particularly one with McGregor’s daredevil buddy Josh Brolin, and his girlfriend (an underused Patrica Arquette. When the film focuses on its main horror storyline it works quite well though. There’s a killer loose in the city, one with a penchant for necrophilia, and no one wants to have the night shift at a mortuary with someone like that running about. Nick Nolte adds class and charisma to his role as a weary, grizzled police detective who’s searching for the killer. Nolte rarely sets foot in the horror/thriller side of things, but his looming presence and concrete scraper sounding voice fit into the atmosphere terrifically. There’s a couple cameos as well, one from John C. Reilly as an ill fated police officer and an amusing Brad Dourif as the morgue’s cranky duty doctor. If Borendal had trimmed the fat in places as far as subplots go, given a bit more edge to the script and overall just tweaked it more it could have been a cracking good thriller, but as is it’s only above average with a few spots that really shine. 

-Nate Hill

Phil Joanou’s State Of Grace


Phil Joanou’s State Of Grace had the unfortunate luck of being released in 1990, the same year that also saw Scorsese’s Goodfellas and the third Godfather film. It’s hard to gain your footing when that kind of momentum is surging about, but this film is as good as the others, and deserves recognition or at least some kind of re-release. Set in the blistering inferno of Hell’s Kitchen, NYC, it’s a violent tale of Irish Mobsters, undercover cops, betrayal and murder, set to a smoky, mournful Ennio Morricone score that lingers in the air like smog. Sean Penn is Terry Noonan, a deep cover operative who returns to his childhood neighbourhood to reconnect with old friends, and dig up buried grudges. Ed Harris is Frankie Flannery, ruthless gangster and former ally, while Gary Oldman plays his hotheaded brother Jackie with a tank full of nitrous and the kind of unpredictable, dynamite fuse

potency one expects to see from a David Lynch character. The three of them are on a collision course set in the grimy streets of New York, bound by old loyalties yet destined to clash and draw new blood. Penn shares the screen with his once wife Robin Wright here, looking lovely as ever. There’s also supporting turns from John Turturro, John C. Reilly, R.D. Call, a geriatric Burgess Meredith and an unbilled cameo from James Russo. Penn, Harris and especially Oldman are like flint sparks, a trio that won’t be stopped and light up the screen for a spellbinding, visceral two hours until their eventual confrontation, hauntingly shot by cinematographer ” in the midst of a bustling St. Patrick’s Day parade. This one has been somewhat lost to the ages, like a number of other stellar crime dramas I can think of from the nineties. The cast, score and Joanou’s thoughtful direction make it an unforgettable piece of work. 

-Nate Hill