Dir: Dominic Sena, 1993. Starring: Brad Pitt, Juliette Lewis, David Duchovny & Michelle Forbes. Action.

A writer (Duchovny) and his girlfriend-photographer (Forbes) make a cross-country trip documenting famous murder sites along the way. Their ride-share companions are two hillbillies (Pitt and Lewis) who add their own crime scenes along the way.

Dominic Sena (Gone in 60 Seconds), of music video fame, made his directorial feature debut with his hard-boiled tail of American crime and the obsession of the masses for bloodshed and carnage. He is successful in making a road film that feels unlike any other as we follow the foursome westward across the plains, leaving misery in their wake.

Director of Photography, Bojan Bazelli, does great work through the lens capturing a nice mixture of polished compositions using expressive lighting, without losing the grittiness of this harrowing world,  this blood soaked nation.

The production design by Michael White finds a good balance between the dusty bleak landscapes of rural America and the cold harshness of big city life. As always, composer Carter Burwell delivers a score that brings a haunting sound to match the vicious actions and behaviors of a killer unleashed.

As "Early Grayce," Brad Pitt (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) turns in one of his most defining characters. He is a man born and bread in the world of white trash trailer parks who kills without motive or explanation, other then it's something he quite enjoys. Grayce is an unscrupulous and unapologetic serial murderer that never quite learned that there are some lines that shouldn't be crossed. With his slow drawl and constant snorting and spitting, Pitt gives Grayce a place among film’s most interesting mass murderers.

Juliette Lewis (Romeo is Bleeding) plays “Adele Corners,” a very dense and stupid young girl who has given her heart completely to a man without morals or scruples. There are few characters that Lewis has played that so absolutely suited her strengths as an actress. Adele is very much like a more kind-hearted version of “Mallory Knox” in Oliver Stone’s sociopathic satire Natural Born Killers.

As scribe and serial-killer aficionado, “Brian Kessler,” David Duchovny (Showtime’s Californication) is intelligent yet ultimately naïve to the ways of world. From afar he finds the life of murderers truly fascinating, but ultimately terrifying when the bloodshed is within his grasp.

Michelle Forbes (Swimming with Sharks) carries her own as “Carrie Laughlin,” lover and photographer to Duchovny’s journalist. She plays the stuck-up Yuppie type with natural ease, delving into her icy attitude to find some true gentleness.

One the most effective ways of maintaining the reality of the film is the incorporation of minor, although strangely unique, supporting characters—such as Early’s handless wheezing parole officer and a rich man with a catheter who is slain in a dirty gas station bathroom.

Kalifornia ranks up there with the most effective and chilling films within the serial killer genre. The tension is palpable throughout as it builds to a shattering climax that leaves the characters changed forever.

Posted by:
Seamus Smith
Feb 23, 2009 4:14pm
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