Heaven's Prisoners (1996)
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One day, while on a boat, they see a plane fall from the sky. Dave is able to save a child who was on board. They take her home with them, but when a DEA agent, Dautrieve, shows up, Dave becomes suspicious about who else was on the plane. He starts to investigate, which leads to trouble. He asks for help from a boyhood friend turned drug lord, Bubba Rocque (Roberts). Unfortunately, Dave doesn't foresee the hell that's coming.
Alec Baldwin, young and handsome, does a terrific job as Dave; in his day, he was a fine leading man. Though he's now proved that he's adept at comedy, his dramatic work is excellent as well, as seen here. He portrays an angry, shattered alcoholic.
The beginning of the film is especially good, showing the quiet beauty of Louisiana and showing Dave in profile at an AA meeting talking about being sober for three years and still wanting a drink. Mary Stuart Masterson is a wonderful actress; here, she's a blond stripper and creates a complete character. Someone on this board asked why she would take a nothing part. I suppose for her it was an opportunity to play something a little different (at least from what I've seen her do). During Lois & Clark, Teri Hatcher was given good parts in several films, but never developed a big film career. She's good here, though we really don't learn a lot about her character.
Heaven's Prisoners is derivative and on the slow side, but it's atmospheric with good acting. At times, the plot is a little hard to follow; I also had a hard time understanding why Dave didn't take the danger seriously enough to either send his family away or keep a closer watch on his home.
Good cast, nice production values.
A Detective Minos Dautrieve, played by Vondie Curtis-Hall drops by the bait shop inquiring in to how many passengers Robicheaux witnessed on the sunken plane when it initially submerged in the water and he tells Robicheaux to forget about the big guy with the whale tattoo who floated to the waters surface. This gets Robichaux's curiosity up and he starts making inquiries that a few local criminals want him to stop inquiring about. One of these criminals is a guy named Bubba Rocque played very well by Eric Roberts who answers to some bosses higher up the criminal food chain. Bubba's wife Claudette, played by Teri Hatcher is a bit of a tramp who likes to sip cocktails most of the day and chase men.
Eventually threats don't stop Robicheaux's inquiries and since he won't let up with his investigation, the mobsters decide to lay a beating on him to firmly tell him to stop his inquiries. Further threats are made and fulfilled as Robicheaux continues with his investigation with the quasi assistance of mobster Bubba's wife.
The movie does run a bit long at around 132 minutes but I did not find the movies length composed with any filler time. There were twists and turns throughout, the bayou scenes were quite expansive and the acting was above par. Mary Stuart Masterson plays a stripper named Robin Gaddis who has a unique relationship with Alec Baldwin's character Dave Robicheaux which strengthens throughout the film. This is a good film for couples to watch together as it contains romance, heroism, action and suspense. Well worth the watch, and 132 minutes well spent!
My wife and I found this film on IFC late one night while laying in bed. Neither one of us was often impressed at the excrement cranked out by Hollywood these days. But, this little indy film was just weird enough to suck us in.
That was over 10 years ago.
After seeing it (now) about 30 times, it is (obviously) part of my library... a household favorite. ... as is the main character, played fairly convincingly by Alec Baldwin. He portrays Dave Robicheaux, a thoroughly fallible, gritty and likable character.
In this film all the characters get your attention. The story was good. The swamp was muggy as hell. That psycho POS Victor Romero was completely wack.
Badja Djola was awesome as Batist... "You wanna be a duck, you?"
Too many colorful characters to mention here. But they are many and very real. The overwhelming heat and humidity of the bayou was so palpable that you wanted to jump in the shower from time to time throughout the movie.
The abundance of memorable lines testify to the skill of the writers and it's beautifully shot.
BTW..... If you don't like the F word..... try Bambi on the next aisle.
There's nothing at all wrong with this film.
"Hey Dave..! I got'cher Dreamsicle...hangin' down low." Eric Roberts was great as Bubba Rock.
Terry Hatcher gets naked, if that's of any interest.
But, Dave falling off the wagon is (alone) worth the price of admission.
"Minas Dautrieve- D.E.A...... the door was open".
The film covers well worn territory, and contains only two stand out scenes, the first a stormy assassination sequence, the other the climactic revelation that a character played by Terri Hatcher is a heartless, evil witch. "In The Electric Mist", a sequel starring Tommy Lee Jones as detective Robicheaux, was released in 2009. It's a much better film.
7.5/10 – Worth one viewing.
Now, I will not compare the movie to the book. Each has to stand on it's own as an art form. I just like seeing some favorite characters brought to life on screen.
Don Stark (Bob from "That '70s Show"), Hawthorne James (Se7en, Amistad), and Oscar nominee Eric Roberts (Runaway Train, The Dark Knight, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints) played bad guys and they had a New Orleans flavor about them. Oscar-nominee Alec Baldwin (The Cooler) seemed a little forced in his attempt to be Cajun.
Teri Hatcher ("Desperate Housewives") was hot as usual, especially when she was standing starkers on the balcony.
Joe Viterelli (Analyze This, Analyze That) was perfect as a mob boss.
Kelly Lynch, Vondie Curtis-Hall ("Chicago Hope") and Mary Stuart Masterson (Benny & Joon) rounded out a great cast in a good movie.
** 1/2 (out of 4)
Former New Orleans detective Dave Robicheaux is forced into retirement after accidentally killing three people. While all of this was going on Dave was also suffering from an alcohol problem, which nearly cost him his life. Two years after retirement he and his wife Annie (Kelly Lynch) move to the Bayou where they open up a bait shop and seem to be living the perfect life. One day while the couple are out on the Bayou a plane crashes nearby their boat. Dave grabs the scuba gear and goes to the sunken plane where he saves a young Mexican girl.
Dave and Annie take the young girl to the hospital where they tell the officials that the child is there's and she was in a simple boating accident. The couple takes the young girl back to their place where they plan on raising her but one day Dave gets a visit from DEA officer. The officer informs Dave that the plane crash wasn't an accident but a murder plot, which Dave has messed up. For some unknown reason he goes to visit a former friend turned stripper (Mary Stuart Masterson) who in return leads him to another former friend turned gangster Bubba Rocque (Eric Roberts). Dave is also introduced to Bubba's former prostitute wife (Teri Hatcher) who seems to have plans outside of her husband's affairs. Not only this but we get another mob boss and three hit men all involved in this mystery, which must be solves by Dave so he can keep the child he rescued.
Heaven's Prisoners is based on the novel by James Lee Burke and while I haven't read this I've heard it's a lot better than the actual movie. The film is an interesting mis-fire, which is so incredibly stupid that one will want to stick through the whole thing just to see how much dumber things can get. The plot is full of so many wholes it's really hard to know what the director or screenwriters were going for. At first it appears to be a political thriller and then we get a Charles Bronson wannabe side plot, which just adds to all the confusion. I mentioned a few of the characters involved in all of this but there are actually more that pop in and out of the movie.
I knew the film was in a lot of trouble within the first ten minutes. After the plane crashes the couple leaves the accident with the child. Within minutes they are at the hospital where they tell everyone that this child is their daughter, although the kid doesn't speak a bit of English. The people in charge are stupid enough to buy all these excuses thrown at them but what I don't understand is why this couple would just take this girl. Perhaps had the screenplay shown them talking about it they could have convinced me but this doesn't happen. We go from a plane crash to them taking the child for no reason, which just leads to more mindless subplots.
Alec Baldwin is an actor I've always enjoyed watching but this here has got to be the worst job in his career. This wannabe character drama is so badly acted by Baldwin that you can't help but laugh when the film is trying to make you feel sorry for him. We get a lot of scenes of him crying but It's so badly done we can't help but laugh. The tough guy cop attitude that Baldwin brings is also very laughable. Worst of all is that incredibly bad Southern accent, which goes in and out throughout the film. Eric Roberts gives a wonderful performance however and he's one of the few reasons to actually sit through this film. Teri Hatcher got a Razzie nomination for Worst Actress and I'm rather shocked she didn't win. Bad acting aside, her infamous full frontal nude scene is worth the price of a rental.
Heaven's Prisoners is a very bad movie yet it thankfully gets laughable, which makes it easier to watch. Running over two hours the film certainly could have used some editing or a longer running time. There's just so many plot holes that I can't help but think the screenplay lost a few pages and the director simply forgot to film the scenes. Imagine reading a book yet only reading every other chapter. By the time you read the end of the book you'll have many unanswered questions and that's how the movie made me feel.
Unfortunately, they witness a plane crash and rescue a small Spanish girl, the lone survivor. Go know that the pilot, along with flying in illegals, is also in the drug business.
We don't know really why the drug people go after our hero. (Alec Baldwin) In the process, his wife is killed and the film becomes one of revenge and to determine who is behind all this mayhem.
Eric Roberts plays Baldwin's friend, a gangster, who claims that he is innocent. Roberts has some wife who it is later revealed is behind much of what is going on.
In the beginning of the film, Baldwin goes to confession to confess to the priest that he needs to start drinking again. That's before the story unfolds.
Needless to say, the movie making this weak film may have needed a few drinks as well.
Alex Baldwin does a great job given some of the missing flavor of James Lee Burkes writing. Baldwin made a great looking "Shadow" as well with an unfortunate script.
Anyway, a seedy New Orleans, some good blues music and five varied-and-all interesting lead characters make this a very watchable movie. Alec Baldwin, Kelly Lynch, Teri Hatcher, Mary Stuart Masterston and Eric Roberts all contribute with good performances All but Roberts are the "good guys" in this one.
The movie keeps your attention and has you involved for most of the two hours. The action is well-dispersed. My only complaint is a small one: Baldwin with the southern accent doesn't sound natural. Otherwise, a good modern-day crime story.
The movie's kind of like that too. The location shooting is just fine. Everyone sweats up a storm in the heat and humidity and it's no wonder that they head for the gin rickeys with all that ice. New Orleans is exposed in all its funkiness. The French Quarter is more or less avoided, but we get to see the lesser neighborhoods, now drowned and empty of human life in the wake of Katrina.
There are the shotgun houses of the poor, the stripper bars playing bluesy music. The streetcars travel not through the Garden District but through ordinary residential streets. Beautiful in its own rotting way, almost phosphorescent with corruption. Outside the city there are bait shops that rent boats and sell tackle. One of these is run by Alec Baldwin, ex cop, recovering alcoholic.
The story isn't very much, when you come right down to it. Hard to follow at times, not really captivating but not absolutely mainstream generic either. Baldwin has a marvelously normal family, including a stolen adopted girl, but is accidentally involved in some shenanigans I couldn't quite follow, something about smuggling, which draws the attention of the mob. Baldwin doesn't seem to actually DO anything that threatens their presence but they surround his house one lightning-filled night and do his loving and courageous wife (Kelly Lynch). The rest of the plot is a revenge story, with Baldwin tracking down the killers one by one.
There are some good action scenes, a chase across the rooftops, a battle on a streetcar. All the action is done in slow motion so you get a chance to savor it -- the crashing crashing cars, the catapulting bodies, the muzzle flashes brilliantly lighting up the interiors of dark houses. PS: Mister Director, can we have a moratorium on slow-motion deaths? It's more than a cliché; it's positively decadent by now. Let's get together and blame Sam Pekinpah, okay?
I thought the conclusion was pretty well done. After his wife is blasted to shreds by shotguns, an attractive young blond -- and old friend -- moves into his house in the woods and provides him with some emotional comfort. They once were quite close.
Now -- see -- Baldwin's wife is gone, and he's got this little Latina girl that he's adopted, but there's a big hole in the nuclear family. (In other words, the guy needs a wife.) A conventional script calls for him to overcome his grief and fall in love with the reassuring and loving blond babe. But no. When he makes clear that he holds his wife's memory sacred, the blond leaves him a note and takes off, realizing he's not ready to get on with his life, as they say. The last scene has Baldwin in his house, gazing affectionately at his sleeping little girl, then falling on his back beside her. Sensing his presence she twists over and puts her arm around his chest, and he places his hand over hers and stares at the ceiling. It is not a cheap shot. It's a brief but genuinely tender scene, encompassing both love and the loss of it.
Drawn in from the outset, I was happy to watch the plot unfold. Yes, it could be argued that the main protagonist brings his troubles upon himself but that is hardly a plot fault - some people do.
Problems with the film? I don't know why an actress of Mary Stuart Masterson's caliber should take on such a nothing role. And the plane crash looked cheap and unconvincing. Otherwise, I have no complaints. I love the books and I thoroughly enjoyed the film.
I have read the previous reviews which seem to be critical for the most part and I am left wondering why they are so. I've watched a lot of rotten films and this certainly isn't one of them. I give it an eight out of ten. I enjoyed it.
Did I mention Dave is a a former cop and former drunk ? Good because this might be important apart from Dave being a former drunk . In fact the director and the screenwriter thinks it's so important that Dave used to have a drink problem they drown the audience with a subtext involving alcohol . Umpteen scenes take place in bars even when it's not all that necessary to the plot while nearly every scene not featuring a bar involves characters drinking or referring to alcohol and all the scenes look like they're shot ala booze commercial . Bar scenes look like beer commercials , office scenes look like bourbon commercials and scenes shot on boats off the coast look like rum commercials . I don't know if I'm reading too much into this but since the message that Dave is a former alcoholic is hammered home it drew this reviewer's attention to the number of scenes featuring drink
The problem with HEAVEN'S PRISONERS is not only the amount of scenes that seemingly promote drink it's the number of scenes in general . This is a screenplay that needed streamlined in the first draft since nothing much really happens in the first place and when they do they don't really progress the plot very much . Of course it's a character driven story but it's also film noir in nature and the film noir genre isn't known for it's character development so when a character is introduced we know who they are and there's no need to go over the same ground to explain who they are . This is a movie that last for well over two hours when in fact chopping off a good 45 minutes would have been a very good thing . No doubt Baldwin , Roberts and Hatcher had high hopes with this movie improving their careers but it's a damp squib for all involved
We may not know what makes a movie good . It does help however, to see movies like these once in a while, so at least we'll know what makes it bad :)(It helps to be sure of something).