Remember when James Cagney" made it, Ma, to the top of the world!" in "White Heat"? Remember when Dennis Hopper sucked on a respirator all the way through "Blue Velvet"? Of course you do and so does screenwriter Richard Price. But he insists that he has reinvented 1947's "Kiss Of Death"...Except for the title...And the plot. Okay, so anyone who has seen the original film on American Movie Classics realises that even for the late forties, "Kiss Of Death" was dated from the first pucker.
So here are the up-to-date revisions: David Caruso and Helen Hunt play Jimmy and Bev, a loser couple who are trying to get their act together for the sake of their baby daughter. While she's at an A.A. meeting, he stays home with the kid until his moronic, butt ugly cousin Ronnie bangs on the door whining how he's going to get creamed unless Jimmy helps him with a car heist.
When Jimmy agrees to help this obnoxious slug, we realise that we're going to be stuck with a dummy protagonist for the next two hours. So does actor Caruso for he tries really hard to give his character a subsurface intelligence that makes no sense in context. During the heist, Jimmy is predictably stupid and gets sent up the river where he eventually rats on everyone to get his family back. And Ronnie moves in on poor Bev, who's no member of Mensa either. And on we chug from one idiotic mistake to the next which EVERYONE in this movie makes with exhausting regularity: the feds, the state police, the thugs, the babysitter who finally marries Jimmy, etcetera.
It's like this: mistake, blood, yelling, mistake, blood, yelling. Samuel L. Jackson is wasted. Helen Hunt is wasted. And then there is Nicholas Cage, hamming it up as usual, with yet another director (Barbet Shroder) who makes no effort whatever to restrain him or five his character a sliver of life that wasn't stolen from an old movie. This isn't film noir, trad or neo. It's just another entry in that overstuffed genre, Film Stupid.
Copyright 1995 Monica Sullivan
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