Film: U Turn

Cast includes: Sean Penn (Milk), Billy Bob Thornton (Sling Blade), Jon Voight (Midnight Cowboy), Jennifer Lopez (The Wedding Planner), Powers Boothe (Nixon), Nick Nolte (Affliction), Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line), Claire Danes (Stage Beauty)
Writer (book and screenplay): John Ridley (Three Kings)
Director: Oliver Stone (Nixon)
Genre: Dark crime/ drama/ thriller/film noir (1997)

In brief: As Peggy Lee sings “It’s a good day for singing a song,” Bobby is on the run from bookies, speeding through the hot Arizona countryside in his red Mustang convertible. When something under the hood blows, he rolls up to a fork in the road. Luckily, Superior is just three miles to the right. When he pulls into Darrell’s garage, steam is pouring out of the engine. Well, no wonder… it’s 92° and it’s still morning. Darrell diagnoses it as a busted radiator hose. No shit! “Can you fix it or do I have to go someplace else.” “Someplace else is 50 miles from here.” Looks like Darrell gets the job. Bobby flinches when Darrell manhandles the car. “It’s not just a car. It’s a 64½ Mustang convertible,” he tells Darrell. God, Darrell’s stupid!

The sooner Bobby can get out of Superior, the better… until he sees the exotic Grace carrying some boxes to her car. One thing leads to another, and Bobby and Grace are in bed when Grace’s husband, Jake, busts in on them. Jake’s old, but he’s not too old to mess Bobby up some. So Bobby has to walk back to town… God it’s hot! On the way, Jake pulls along side and offers him a lift. “I wouldn’t have done it if I’d known she was married.” Bobby’s trying to make nice with Jake. “Wouldn’t have made any difference. You’re a man with out scruples,” Jake says. In fact, Jake has a proposition for Bobby… he wants him to kill Grace and make it look like an accident. The idea is totally ludicrous… until Bobby loses all his money in a botched grocery store hold up. He can’t even get his car back because Darrell now wants $150 for the repair. “It’s not just a Ford. It’s a 1964½ Mustang.” Darrell loves sticking it to Bobby. “Is everyone in this town on drugs?” What a mess! Is Bobby ever going to find a way out?

No one does noir better than John Ridley. Based on his novel Stray Dogs, this story is deeply but seductively dark. It’s an example of what can be done in this genre, with top talent and a good script. Even some of the pit parts are played by well-known actors. It’s a genre with limited box office appeal, but if you enjoy film noir, this little film is surprisingly delicious.

popcorn rating

4 popped kernels

Popped kernels for the sinister dark humor. It's an excellent script with interesting plot twists. Great characters... all unsavory.

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