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Bob Rafelson has stated that this is the final part of an informal trilogy he started with "Five Easy Pieces" and continued with "The King Of Marvin Gardens". In the three, Nicholson has now played son, brother and father. In this one, Nicholson is a wealthy wine dealer who has distanced himself from his wife with his philandering and from his son with his negligence. After he steals a diamond necklace with the help of a safecracker partner, Victor, things start coming apart. His wife sets out to interrupt what she thinks is another one of his weekend dalliances, but is really his trip to pawn the jewels. Written by
John Sacksteder <email@example.com>
Florida noir at it's best since Huston's Key Largo; perhaps Nicholson's most underrated star turn from the 90s
I'm not sure why I haven't seen Blood and Wine from start to finish up until today, but it has always been intriguing as that one Jack Nicholson movie I would see in bits and pieces on TV, with J-Lo in an early supporting role as the not-quite femme fatale, and Michael Caine as a guy with a very bad cough. Seeing it today I'm reminded of the classic work Bob Rafelson, director, and Nicholson did back in the 70s, even if they already reached their peak on their first film, Five Easy Pieces. But at the least Blood and Wine represents a return to form for Nicholson under the director he worked with most, either as actor or writer (he co-wrote Head), especially in the F.E.P. role of a SOB, which, of course, is usually as easy for Nicholson as raising up his eyebrows. His character, Alex, is a criminal, but not a very good one, as he isn't entirely able to balance out his goals as a jewel thief and as an adulterer with Lopez's Gabriella. It doesn't help that his wife (Judy Davis) has a son from a previous marriage (Stephen Dorff), who has it in for Alex big-time. Meanwhile, that jewel necklace is almost up in the air, and all his craggy partner, Vic (Michael Caine), can do is cough a lot and act more as a dumb muscle than as a consummate professional.
So in these ingredients, Rafelson and his writers have a classic, cooked-up noir with enough style by its actors and locale to make up for what would be considered 'too violent' to show back in the forties (probably too sexy too, what with Lopez's 'assets'). Rafelson knows this material needs the best cast, and assembled is the best cast for the job, where desperation, greed, proper morality and just a moment of piece of mind get shifted around but are always the constants that all these characters. Nicholson is, well, Nicholson, cold to the bone but also a great liar, violent, passionate, but won't stop till he gets his way. He's not breaking new ground or setting up himself for the usual awards circuits, but it's still very cool to see him playing Alex as believable work of sleaze, almost in the tradition of Bogart (he actually does just as good, if not better, here than he did in Rafelson's 'Postman' remake). Dorff, meanwhile, could be considered the weakest link with a cast like this, but he holds his own fairly well within his character's basic lines, especially when considering the roles he'd have to take later on. Caine is a natural at playing against "type", which doesn't really exist for him, and disappears into this pragmatic but vicious parolee. And actresses like Davis and Lopez fit into their roles in the "noir" mood with equal levels of ease. I wish I could see Lopez in more roles like this where we might not believe totally her intentions for either of the men in her life, but is not necessarily cruel like the old femme fatales either.
Released, as they say, under the radar back in 96, Blood and Wine uses its Miami and Florida locales like they're still lush and lustful and engaging, and the danger here isn't diminished from what's usually expected in the urban cities and dark alleys. Rafelson's got his A-game on here with an enjoyable story where we can guess pretty much where it will lead- the wills of men tested head-to-head- but it's a lot of harsh fun getting there.
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