Blood and Wine

"Movie Magazine International" Review

(Air Date: Week Of 02/19/97)

Mary Weems

In "Blood and Wine", Jack Nicholson's at it again, playing a character flailing in a mucky situation, but always maintaining his stock in trade -- aaa-titude. Who cares if it's sometimes gratuitous attitude, it works, the way it worked in "Five Easy Pieces", and "The King of Marvin Gardens", which, along with "Blood and Wine", form what director Bob Rafelson sincere calls, in hindsight, a trilogy.

This time Nicholson plays Miami wine merchant Alex Gates, who has a rotten marriage to a widow, played with dazzling bitterness by Judy Davis, a rotten relationship with her son, Jason, and a sleazy affair with a Latin au pair named Gabrielle, who's employed by one of his clients. All that rottenness and sleaze, and we're just getting started!

Now Nicholson's the older generation, although he still gets to keep the attitude. When Jason says, "I'm already wearing a shirt," Alex answers, "That's not a shirt. This is a shirt -- no rips, no tears, no stains, no slogans," and we catch an echo from the chicken salad discourse in Five Easy Pieces.

But wait, the sleaze factor gets even deeper -- enter Michael Caine as Victor Spansky, Alex's old poker buddy, and expert safe cracker, and they team up to steal a diamond necklace from one of Alex's clients. Victor has badly dyed hair, a hacking cough that he nurses with cigarettes, and a kneejerk violent streak. Even if Alex and Victor go way back, there's no buddy syndrome here -- it's just of case of them needin' each other to try and get out of the muck.

Well, the diamond heist turns sour when Alex's wife knocks him out during an argument, and, unbeknownst to her, flees with a suitcase containing the necklace, and she drives to Key Largo with son Jason. Of course Jason is also in love with the sexy au pair by now, setting up the classic father / son rivalry. Victor and Alex go after mother and son, and you don't want to miss the chase scene down a windy Florida road.

Blood and Wine has it all -- high-spirited violence, gratuitously decadent dialogue, Michael Caine gratuitously ripping out Nicholson's eyebrow stitches, and the struggle between innocence and jadedness adding the subtext of a morality play. How could you miss it?

Copyright 1997 Mary Weems

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