U-Turn

Dir: Oliver Stone, 1997. Starring: Sean Penn, Jennifer Lopez, Nick Nolte. Mystery / Thriller.
U-Turn

"Bobby Cooper" (Penn) is a wandering gambler whose car breaks down in some lost Southwestern town where he’s pulled into a web of lies, deceit, and murder.

Oliver Stone (W) directs one of his most re-watchable and entertaining films in a long and ambitious career. He creates a sinisterly fun Neo-Noir within the confines of a funky cowpoke town. The film maintains a strong mood throughout, with special attention paid to the details, and at a pace that never lets up.

Robert Richardson continued his visual exploration with Stone following Natural Born Killers. Although the shooting style is more reserved than the serial murder tale, U-Turn has a wonderful aesthetic, with a stunning color palette and good use of exaggerated angles.

Composing legend Ennio Morricone’s score is delightfully quirky and almost cartoonish—really adding to the dark humor of the piece.

Sean Penn’s (Milk) character is vain, sleazy, and generally pretty pathetic. He is a man on the run, with little options and less time. Penn does a great job of playing the anti-hero as he encounters one strange back-stabbing local after another. Although Bobby is not a very likable guy, no one gets sympathy out of bad people more than Sean Penn. He is at his best playing characters with a dubious and clashing set of personality traits.

Jennifer Lopez (Out of Sight) turns in one of her most confident and certainly her sultriest of parts—the ever-dangerous Femme Fatale. As a Native American with a dark past, Lopez brings raw sexuality as “Grace McKenna.” She is a strange mixture of criminal mastermind and an innocent child. She is a woman who will get her way at the end of the day—whatever the cost.

Nick Nolte (Tropic Thunder) gives one his best performances as “Jake McKenna”—an urban cowboy insurance man who is consumed by greed, jealousy, and sexual perversion.

Jon Voight (Transformers) is hilarious as an old blind street urchin with a dead dog who doles out life lessons like some sphinx of the high desert.

Claire Danes (Shopgirl) and Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line) play “Jenny” and “Toby ‘TNT’ Tucker”— dim-witted jailbait and her explosively angered boyfriend, respectively. Simply put, they are both wonderful as poor, ignorant white trash.

Powers Booth (HBO’s Deadwood) is the town’s Sheriff—a man trapped in an unhappy life, yearning to have that which belongs to another.

Billy Bob Thornton (Bad Santa) plays ones of the very best scumbags as “”Darrell,” the town’s one and only mechanic. With his beer belly, cracked glasses and grease from head to toe, Thornton savors every moment as a man who has no scruples and relishes tormenting the drifter for the sake of a laugh.

Of the many films in Stone’s canon of work, which includes tackling Presidents and social-issues, U-Turn is just one of the most fun, flat out.

Posted by:
Seamus Smith
Apr 9, 2009 11:45am
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