Volume 2 , Number 10
Nov , 1997
Only Oliver Stone knows what he was trying to accomplish by making "U-Turn", and it is a secret he doesn't share with the audience. This is a repetitive, pointless exercise in genre filmmaking - the nutrition facts on my box of Junior Mints held far more surprises.
I certainly hope Oliver Stone made this movie as a lark, after the exhausting but remarkable "Nixon", "NBK", "Heaven and Earth" and "JFK". Well, he certainly deserves a break, but this one? Stone is a gifted filmmaker, not afraid to take chances, to express ideas in his films and make political statements; however, watching "U-Turn", I was reminded of a concert pianist banging out "Chopsticks". It is done well, but one is disappointed to find it done at all.
The film is based on John Ridley's Stray Dogs, quite a good novel. According to Tristar studio execs, Ridley, who also wrote the original version of the "U-Turn" screenplay, was engaged in an ego war with Stone regarding the direction of the film and was consequently barred from the set. He then requested to have his name taken off the film, to no avail. Sounds to me like he realized he had written a recipe for disaster, and attempted to jump ship before a $20 million box office flop. "U-Turn" stars Sean Penn in a convincing performance, all the more admirable for being pointless. Basic plot: Penn plays Bobby, a star-crossed loner who is doomed to find even more bad luck in the backwater hell of Superior, AZ, where his car breaks down. Over the course of the film, he is seduced, shot at, beaten to bits, almost chomped by a tarantula (come on, Oliver!), and set up for murder. One gets a sinking feeling about 15 minutes into the film that the characters are puppets, not personalities; this is not an Atom Eroyan film, either, so why Stone chooses to make his actors battle to be real is beyond me. This film had a great deal of potential, with the excellent cinematography of Robert Richardson and the strength of the cast. How frustrating that Stone chose to sprint in the opposite direction of the film's natural strengths. "U-Turn" simply has no point; it goes round and round until we figure out that the view is always changing but it will never be new.