Sunday, April 22, 2007


This debut feature film from music video director Dominic Sena is a romp through the world of serial killing, which in its bleakness and moral bankruptcy looks backwards to Terrence Malick's Badlands and forward to Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers. Michelle Forbes plays hip, Mapplethorpe-esque photographer Carrie Laughlin, who wants to move to California for a fresh start. Her boyfriend, Brian Kessler (David Duchovny), is a writer who has an idea for a new book, a travel tome on the sites of serial murders. The two plan to go on a cross-country tour of the murder sites, with Brian writing the commentary and Carrie taking the pictures. But they need a couple to share the driving expenses; enter Grayce (Brad Pitt) and his girlfriend, Adele (Juliette Lewis, in a warm-up for her role in Natural Born Killers). Grayce is an ex-con looking to jump parole, while Adele is a childlike naïf. Soon the four are off to California, but the yuppie couple doesn't realize how close they are to their serial killer topic. It seems Grayce has murdered his landlord before their trip and bodies begin piling up disturbingly behind them as they make their way across the country. (all movie guide)

This is a rather enjoyable movie (if you're kind of warped) that showcases the acting talents of everyone involved. The interaction between the four primary actors has a very 'natural' quality (given the two, very different, sets of circumstances) and is able to produce the desired 'uncomfortable', 'innocent', or 'chilling' feeling right on cue without seeming scripted.

For me, this was the first movie where I realized that Brad Pit could truly 'act' and, I'm pretty sure, it was also the first movie I'd seen him in where he wasn't designed to be a piece of Swarovski crystal sitting on the shelf of a barn; he actually looked worse than his environment and created a very disturbing character. Juliette Lewis was equally believable as a character that she has since gone on to patent and Duchovny and Forbes were outstanding but, for the most part, ignored for their performances which seems to be their constant fate. I find it ironic that, even in staring roles, Duchovny and Forbes are usually regarded as secondary characters by 'mainstream' viewers when they are both part of a fan base that has kept actors like William Shatner in the public eye and characters like Captain Kirk young and vibrant for over forty years.

Along with the superb acting is a great car and incredibly fitting and desolate settings. Even when other people are involved, there's a sense of isolation. All of these factors combine together to provide an exceptionally skewed version of a road trip. If you like psychologically twisted characters, very good acting and non-typical story lines, then this may be an evening well spent. Give it a shot.


Chris said...

I saw this movies shortly after it was released on video (yes video, pre-DVD era). I just loved it and remember thinking this was an important role for Brad Pitt as with the gaunt frame and beard he was not just coasting on his looks. It doesn't hurt that I'm a closet David Duchoveny fan. I miss X-Files. I keep hearing that a 2nd movie is in the works....

John Taylor said...

hi chris
I'm with you on the Duchovny angle - I'm a fan of anyone with a graduate degree in English Lit from Yale (or any other Ivy League school) and brilliant comedic timing.

As for the 2nd X-Files movie, I know David has mentioned that he's ready and I know Chris Carter wants to do it but there may still be some legal issues not resolved from the lawsuit he brought against Fox and I'm constantly hearing conflicting quotes from Gillian Anderson. I'm sure it'll all come together - it's the waiting that kills me.