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U Turn (1997)

U Turn - Ici commence lenfer

Sex. Murder. Betrayal. Everything that makes life worth living.

Directed by:

Oliver Stone

Rating: 5/10

Running Time: 125 minutes

UK Certificate: 18

On DVD

Country: France, United States

‘U-Turn’ is a charlatan of a movie. For almost its entire first hour, it fairly successfully creates the impression of being much better than it actually is. It feels quirky, interesting, and peppered with some great colourful characters. Unfortunately, it’s then revealed for what it truly is – a repetitive, drawn-out, one trick pony. The mask it wears is a good one, but once that mask slips there’s no recovery. No turning back. No “u-turn”, so to speak (see what I did there?).

Sean Penn plays Bobby Cooper, the luckless craggy-nosed slimeball who winds up stranded in the small hick-filled town of Superior, Arizona, when his car breaks down in the desert. After entrusting his vehicle over to redneck mechanic Darrell (a virtually unrecognisable Billy Bob Thornton), he soon becomes embroiled in an unlikely world of back-stabbing, double-crossing, money-grabbing and all-round rootin’ tootin’ nastiness.

Jennifer Lopez sizzles in the hot and sticky surroundings as Grace, the town temptress who’ll stop at nothing to escape this inbred backwater – which could mean bad news for Nick Nolte as husband Jake (her sugar daddy in more ways than one). Both match Penn in the performance stakes, and there are also some great turns from Jon Voight as a blind old Indian, Claire Danes as a flirtatious pea-brain, and Joaquin Phoenix on hilarious form as the explosive Toby N Tucker (folks around here call him “T.N.T.”).

Unfortunately, while I can’t fault the performances of any of the cast, there’s simply no justification for this film dragging on as long as it does – particularly as the tale merely begins to go round and round in increasingly monotonous circles. Each of the characters have great potential for development, but instead director Oliver Stone chooses to focus only on contrivances in the plot and his own pretentious approach behind the camera.

Over-laden with camera trickery, this film is a prime example of why style should never be given priority over substance. At times Stone appears to be just messing about, throwing in flashbacks, random images and black and white stills at totally inappropriate moments. Not that there’s anything wrong with making a tongue-in-cheek movie – given the heavy-duty nature of some of Stone’s other projects, it’s actually welcome – but it’ll never work if you don’t let the viewer in on the joke.

It's Got: Lots of violence and couple of fairly graphic sex scenes – which, given the director, isn’t entirely surprising.

It Needs: To make much better use of an impressive cast.

DVD Extras A theatrical trailer and some filmographies. DVD Extras Rating: 2/10

Alternatives:

Red Rock West

Summary

Oliver Stone confusing a “u-turn” with going endlessly round and round in circles.

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