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U-Turn Reviewby James Sanford (jasanfor AT MCI2000 DOT com)
January 13th, 1999
Directed by Oliver Stone
It's a telling sign that "U-Turn" is identified in the opening credits as "An Oliver Stone Movie" rather than "An Oliver Stone Film." This is Stone in an apolitcal, even -- dare we say it -- lighthearted mood. But this time out his bag of tricks is filled with recycled items: grainy film stock, black-and-white inserts, scorpions, scolding crows, Indian soothsayers and a non-stop parade of white trashies. "U-Turn" has some of the style of "Natural Born Killers" with almost none of its satiric sting or kinetic energy, and the result is a clunky black comedy with only a few scattered laughs breaking up a monotonous cruise.
Although the story claims to be based on John Ridley's "Stray Dogs," it actually owes more to such modern film-noirs as "Red Rock West" and "Body Heat." A breakdown strands luckless gambler Sean Penn in a desert town where everyone seems to be either hot-blooded or hot-tempered. Sultry local slut Jennifer Lopez (awkwardly making her way through a role originally intended for Sharon
The only real amusement is provided by the vibrant Claire Danes, playing a bubble-brained tease who desperately tries to seduce Penn into helping her escape the town, and Joaquin Phoenix, as her even dumber boyfriend, who calls himself "T.N.T." Penn can be extremely funny given the right material, but "U-Turn" affords him few opportunities to do anything except look put-upon. Nolte growls and grimaces unmenacingly, and his tawdry sex scene with Lopez should have been cut: It's an embarassment to both actors. Cameos by everyone from Laurie Metcalf to Liv Tyler abound, creating only momentary interest. When "U-Turn" finally comes to its long-delayed ending, you realize "Donut" would have been a far more suitable title, as your unexciting two-hour journey has only taken you around in a circle; like its hero, this show never gets on the road. James Sanford
Synopsis: When his car breaks down in a small God-forsaken town in Arizona, Bobby Cooper, a broke, two-bit criminal becomes involved with a beautiful married woman whose husband secretly wants her dead--and offers Bobby a high price to get the job done right.