An ersatz CHINATOWN meets THE UNTOUCHABLES wannabe (atomic testing & voyeuristic sex films in for water rights & incest) with a roll-call cast (Nick Nolte, Melanie Griffith, Chazz Palminteri, Michael Madsen, Chris Penn, Treat Williams, Jennifer Connelly, Daniel Baldwin, Andrew McCarthy, John Malkovich, Kyle Chandler, Ed Lauter, Louise Fletcher, Rob Lowe, William Petersen . . . whew!; plus Bruce Dern showing that’s it’s possible to act in these things) and a truly terrible case of the cutes. Lee Tamahori’s mainstream Hollywood debut after making a splash directing the modern Maori themed ONCE WERE WARRIORS/’94, does him no favors. Set in the ‘50s, everyone might as well be playing dress-up in their crisp period hats as they suck endless ciggies & speed thru the streets of L.A. in curvy, soft-riding cars. On the plus side, Griffith’s original face is still intact, Penn & Malkovich duke it out for worst perf, and Nolte morphs inadvertently into character actor Pat Hingle. Even pros like composer Dave Grusin and great cinematographer Haskell Wexler seem off their game. Let’s blame producers Richard & Lili Fini Zanuck.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Two years on, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL/’97 got this right.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: For a change, the period giveaway isn’t the ladies’ hair-styling, but the men’s, especially all those untrimmed necks.