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Debbie Bannister (Marg Helgberger) is the vice-president of a bank in Gainsville, Florida who answers an ad in the magazine Soldier of Fortune by John Hearn ex-Vietnam Marine and Atlanta truckdriver (Gary Cole). As John presents himself as a hired gun, Debbie uses him to kill Harley Pearce (David Carpenter), the ex-husband of her sister Cheryl Larson (Kathleen Wilhoite), Debbie's husband Joe (Gregg Henry), and also Sandy Black.
Helgenberger plays Debbie as a sensual trailer-trash femme fatale, wearing tight clothes, breathing heavily, and crying when asking of John. We see Debbie fidgeting with her necklace, eating a cherry in closeup, in a towel and many sex scenes with John, in a family photo with her family, laughing/screaming when she gas explodes her grandmother's house, and with a cold cream mask with Joe. Helgenberger is funny when rude on the telephone - `Well, maybe he's come back in the last 5 minutes?!, shakes her head when told she has no sense of reality replying `I know what's real', sings Hush Little Baby with a tear-stained clown face, and has a child-like rapport with both Debbie's two children as well as John's dog and his son Travis (Jon Paul Steuer). She is best when demonstrating how she plays John - slapping him so he will remember how much killing Joe hurts her, squealing in surprise at John's anger about her delaying in divorcing Joe, faking the bruises she claims Joe caused, and her slow reaction to John stopping her from leaving a room when he won't agree to do the first murder.
The teleplay by Gregory Goodell, from a story by Goodell and William Bayer and on the book The Soldier of Fortune Murders by Ben Green, features notable lines. Debbie first meets John at a bar called the Alligator Pit with a featured stuffed alligator, Harley is described as `scum that aint worth the garbage on his frontyard', and John's mother Alice (Julie Harris) tells him `I've seen you fall hard and fast before, and you're no fun to pick up', and asks `Are you going to tell me where you're going? Are you going to tell me why you're going?!'. Goodell also uses a unicorn metaphor for Debbie, where she has a tattoo and a figurine in her home.
Director Larry Elikann has trouble sustaining our interest in the 140 minute running time, with the denouement especially unsatisfying for Debbie, but he uses a subjective camera view of her when John kills Harley, focuses on John's face when he shoots Sandy, cross-cuts between Debbie and Cheryl running from grandmother's gaseous house and the lit candle, and has our view of Debbie lying to the police hindered by venetian blind slats.
4 of 7 people found this review helpful.
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