Heaven's Prisoners (1996) Poster

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bayou intrigue worth the trip
NateWatchesCoolMovies4 December 2016
Phil Joanou's Heaven's Prisoners is a great little sweaty southern crime yarn that, as I recall, went through a modicum of production hell which some people seem to think stunted any chance it had. I for one think it came out just fine, a moody little neo noir with an intense yet laconic turn from Alec Baldwin, a gorgeous lineup of femme fatales to contend with played by some of the most talented gals out there, and a wily supporting turn from a cornrow sporting Eric Roberts. Baldwin plays Dave Robicheaux, an ex New Orleans who is rousted from tranquil relaxation on the bayou when a mysterious Cessna plane crashes into the marsh near him. Upon exploring it he turns up a considerable amount of drugs, no doubt on their way from somewhere bad to someplace worse. This is the catalyst for a whole whack of trouble falling into his lap, literally and figuratively. He is drawn into a lethal dragnet involving corrupt DEA, his old pal and drug lord Bubba Rocque (Roberts, a prince in the limited screen time he gets), his dangerous moll (Teri Hatcher, sexy and malicious), and more. Baldwin navigates it all with a cold eyed cool of a professional who has been to these places before, both as actor and character. The stakes are high though, as he has a wife of his own (Kelly Lynch) who could potentially be dragged into the mess, and a former flame (Mary Stuart Masterson) who blows back into his life like a tropical storm cell. This film is based on a series of novels by James Lee Burke, all starring Robicheaux and chronicling his hard boiled adventures. You can also check out the excellent In The Electric Mist, another of these yarns from 2008 where Tommy Lee Jones takes up the mantle. Joanou knows the ropes and rigs of film noir, and paces this baby nicely, never too loud or proud and always with the laid back, simmering vibe of the south.
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good performances in this "neo-noir"
blanche-214 September 2014
Heaven's Prisoners is a modern noir from 1996 starring Alec Baldwin, Mary Stuart Masterson, Eric Roberts, Teri Hatcher, and Vondie Curtis-Hall. Set in New Orleans, it's the story of an ex-cop, Dave Robicheaux, who is now out of the force and runs a bait shop just outside the city.

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.
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A Very Good Thriller Down on the Bayou
Ed-Shullivan20 November 2013
Dave Robicheaux (played by Alec Baldwin) is an ex cop who decides after one too many shootings on the force to open up a fishing tackle and bait shop on the Bayou with his wife Annie, played by Kelly Lynch. While they are out on their boat they witness a single engine plane spiralling down from the sky barely missing their boat before it crashes in to the water. Robicheaux dives in to the water down to the planes cockpit where he sees a small child trying to survive in an air pocket amongst a few dead people. With his air supply quickly diminishing in his scuba gear he rescues the child from a near death experience and with his wife Annie in agreement they agree to raise the young girl as their own even though she does not speak a word of English.

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!
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Ignorance can be bliss
tadpdjango11 July 2012
I'm not literary snob. So, please excuse my ignorance regarding how true the screenplay was to the author's original characters, story line and so forth... I just like a good movie.

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".

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Famous bomb fails to entertain on pretty much any level.
Dave from Ottawa24 April 2012
The tens of millions lost by this box office bust set back the careers of stars Alec Baldwin, Eric Roberts and Teri Hatcher a few years, but also proved that if you are going to make a crime thriller, it helps to put in a few actual thrills, or maybe come up with a plot that makes some sense. The story probably worked in its first draft, but the meandering, almost random string of events in the movie give the impression of a script that underwent too many re-writes. Plus, it's filled with unsavory types who all seem to be running some twisted game, but instead of combining these threads together the script just lets them hang. The viewer spends too much time trying to recall who is up to what and then when nothing comes of it all, gives up interest. The movie also tries early on for a hothouse Southern Gothic atmosphere, but fails to generate it, thanks to too much time wasted on Eric Roberts' character's boxing obsession, and the fact that Hatcher's femme fatale act is played out too sparingly and seems unrelated to anything until it's too late for the audience to care. Baldwin's central performance is not very interesting and it is never clear whether we should sympathize with him or just hang around waiting to see if he gets whacked. Kelly Lynch is apparently in the movie too, but her character seems superfluous and sketchy, as if her part was at some point cut way down. The result is an incomplete performance that again fails to generate much interest. This pretty much sums up the movie. An attractive cast of good actors hang around expensive southern plantation sets posturing with one another and it all just fails to go anywhere. No wonder it flopped. It's not awful, but nothing here really works at all.
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Choppy but still above average .................
merklekranz3 March 2012
Fans of Alec Baldwin and Eric Roberts would most likely get the most enjoyment out of this long and uneven film. There are problems for sure. One certainly would be the little girl who is saved from the crashed plane, appears to have zero bearing on the outcome, yet lots of time is devoted to scenes involving her. Second, the Southern accents seem to come and go, and are nothing but an annoyance. Characters appear and disappear sort of at random, and several are never really developed. This is not a bad film, just not a very well executed one. It is overlong, and lacks enough momentum to sustain interest for over two hours. - MERK
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Gumbo anyone?
tieman6419 June 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Phil Joanou directs "Heaven's Prisoners", a neo-noir which finds actor Alec Baldwin playing detective Dave Robicheaux, a Louisianan gumshoe thrown knee deep into a noir plot packed with the genre's usual assortment of femme fatales, hookers, henchmen, murders and double crosses. Midway in the film, though, "Heaven's Prisoners" becomes a revenge movie in the vein of Fritz Lang's "The Big Heat". Like Lang's film, our hero's wife is accidentally assassinated, provoking our now enraged hero into going after a local mob boss.

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.
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So, right about now I'm thinking' your head would make a real nice toilet brush.
lastliberal8 January 2009
I love reading James Lee Burke's novels about Dave Robicheaux. I also love movies set in New Orleans or anywhere in Louisiana. They always have good music and interesting characters. This film is no exception.

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.
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In which a brave,honourable man finds redemption
ianlouisiana21 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
James Lee Burke is the poet of Blue Collar America.Waitresses,oil - rig workers,bartenders,dirt - farmers,cowboys,cops,people who live by their wits and the strength of their arms,the disenfranchised and the lost,he is their literary champion. Detective Dave Robicheaux is his best - known creation,an imperfect man certainly,but a principled one. Mrf Burke's novels are not for readers looking for a quick fix,an easy resolution,thus "Heaven's Prisoners",the movie,is atypical for a 90s cop flick. In his somewhat chequered career,Det.Robicheaux has moved around from New Orleans to LaFayette,from Sheriff's Office to Police Dept,frequently under suspension,but always feared by the criminals and grudgingly respected by his superiors.At the time the movie is set he has quit law enforcement and is working his bait - shop/cafe on the Bayou.He witnesses a light aircraft crash and rescues a little girl from the wreckage.It is an act that changes the lives of many people. The movie is atmospheric and character - led with much depending on Alec Baldwin's portrayal of Det.Robicheaux.Mr Baldwin responds to this challenge with a complex and subtle performance.His interaction with the rescued girl - named Alafair,incidentally,the name of Burke's real - life daughter - is finely done,and the development of their relationship is the core point of the movie. In some ways Det.Robicheaux's former profession is purely incidental. "Heaven's Prisoners" is the story of a brave,honourable man who faces the consequences of his actions and finds redemption through the innocence of a child.It's a fine movie.
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Michael_Elliott13 March 2008
Heaven's Prisoners (1996)

** 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.
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Heaven's Prisoners *1/2 -Don't Take Any Hostages Here
edwagreen17 November 2007
Disappointing film where an ex-alcoholic police officer leaves the force and begins life anew with his wife.

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.
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Robicheaux is a character well known to award winning writer James Burke
lacarpool25 July 2007
while this movie does not really capture the flavor of Burkes "prose" it's nice to see recognition of one of fictions better characters. Noticeably missing is the character "Clete Purcell" who was Dave R's former NOPD homicide partner. I see that Tommy Lee Jones will tackle A TV version of another Robicheaux mystery of which 16 Robicheaux novels have been written. Moe action by Baldwin and an interplay between he and the missing Clete Purcell might have brought this movie along further into another feature. New Orleans is always the great mixture of characters and places for mystery, murder and mayhem.

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.
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Too unrealistic to be enjoyable
ECETeacher22 December 2006
I found this movie so full of holes I am actually motivated to come and write a review. In the very first scene, Dave and his wife witness the plane crash and call it in, rescue a girl and take her home to raise as their own. 1. Why would you leave the scene when you have clearly stated your boats name and location and are a known witness to the accident. 2. Even if the girls mother has clearly died in the accident, do you not think she may have relatives, maybe even in your area? How dare this couple think she will be theirs? 3. They name her after Dave's mother. The girl is about 7 years old and clearly speaks Spanish in the hospital. A verbal girl should be called by her given name, not some name that I don't even recognize in English! This was in the first 10 minutes of the movie, but for me, the movie continued with as many loopholes that just made this painful to watch. I can't comment on the ending because I didn't stick with it.
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There should have been sequels
john-malson16 August 2006
The character of Dave Robicheaux would have been a fascinating one to follow in follow-up features, which is what Alex Baldwin at one time had in mind. But to date, Heaven's Prisoners is the only one made. Having read the James Lee Burke novels, there were a tremendous opportunity to have seen the New Orleans underworld in a way that had both an eerie attraction and a noir aspect that could have translated into a very powerful set of features. There is still something there that could be tapped, because a setting in the Crescent City is a natural for this type of movie. Heaven's Prisoners just scratched the surface. It certainly helped having one of my favorite nasty guys playing Bubba Rocque, in Eric Roberts, and Teri Hatcher showing off her butterfly, pre-Desperate Housewives. But then, Burke's novels have some of the weirdest evil-doers twisting Robicheaus every which way and Prisoners had its share. Makes for a great show.
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Another Pretty Solid Modern 'Noir'
ccthemovieman-129 March 2006
I guess you could call this a "neo-noir," which is a modern-day film noir. It has that atmosphere, especially in New Orleans which seems to always been pictured on the seamy side in films. After the devastation that took place there last year, perhaps filmmakers will kinder to the city in future movies.

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.
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Not Heaven sent
hall89513 January 2006
If you want a movie that goes on and on but never really ends up going anywhere at all this is the one for you. Heaven's Prisoners goes off in a bunch of directions, none of them particularly interesting. Much of the acting, most notably from "stars" Alec Baldwin and Teri Hatcher leaves a lot to be desired. Of course the actors are not helped by dialogue that is stilted, forced, and at times, downright ludicrous. The whole mess is capped by one of the most ridiculous, implausible, laughable chase scenes in history with a couple of overweight men leaping from rooftop to rooftop as if they were Spider-Man. When this endless scene finally draws to a close at least you think you can breathe a sigh of relief, watch the end credits roll and give thanks this awful film is finally over. But no, the movie still keeps going and going and going and we are made to suffer as it drags on towards a finish which seems as if it will never come. If you look at the plot it seems there might be a good story in here somewhere. Former cop rescues orphaned girl after a plane crash, takes her in, finds out the girl has connections to drug smuggling which threatens his family...you'd think you could take that story somewhere. Apparently you can't.
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Boo-boo Bayou
erniemunger3 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Stereotypical man-with-a-vengeance story set in the Mississippi delta. Ex-cop and ex-alcoholic Dave Robicheaux is witness to a plane crash, saves a kid from drowning and before he can say "Gin Ricky", gets involved in a largely obscure drug ring scheme. Heaven's Prisoners is a priceless example of pretty much everything that's annoying you (well, at least me) in mainstream US cinema. Like so many Hollywood action films, it celebrates core American values; that is, family values, abstinence, and doing yourself justice by shooting other people's encephalon out. It is clearly one of those intrinsically fraudulous stories where the whole plot is geared towards a vengeful killing spree, with the inciting incident being the murder, for no apparent reason, of the man's wife somewhere in mid-film (snore). The rest is accordingly shallow. Bubba Rocque, the film's bad boy character, is a pedantic and faggy Latino type straight from the gym. This ridiculous characterisation is only worsened by the fact that Eric Roberts's antics are at best a subliminal impersonation of Karl Lagerfeld gone gumbo. And the big boss man Didi Giancano is, how else could it be, a fat Italian mafioso who speaka no nonsense. The dialogues are as predictable as this year's flood, the pace lamer than a saltwater croc, and the intrigue just muddy waters. Fitting in with that picture, Heaven's Prisoners has inconsistencies and continuity goofs galore. A plane with drug smugglers goes down yet no-one, least something called "the police", seems to care except a (soloist and big-mouthed) FBI agent. After his wife gets murdered, Robicheaux drowns his sorrow in the bar owned by one of the killers (who, as we find out, were actually after him). Protagonists walk into other people's homes as if they were theirs, guys pull their guns in bars without so much as a glimpse by the patrons, men sweat their pants wet but the ladies are invariably spotless, all the joints in the area (a grand total of 2) run the same blues record etc etc. New Orleans could have made for a great atmospheric flick (as, for instance, Parker's depiction of Louisiana in Angel Heart) but it all remains sketchy here. Like the title, come to think of it. Bye-bye, blue Bayou.
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New Orleans
FSUKXAZ20 November 2005
Excellent movie. Takes place in steamy sultry New Orleans. I love movies that really explore the city, and this is no exception. New Orleans is wonderful city, even though it will never be the same as it once was. Just like "Tightrope" and "No Mercy" New Orlens is one of the main characters of this film. Eric Roberts as a rich bad guy and Alec Baldwin as he ex-cop are excellent in this film. Mary Stuart Masterson did a great job too as a lovable stripper with a heart of gold. Did I mention that Teri Hatcher is naked in this film? Oh, yes she is. What I might say to her in this movie: "No, I don't like your butterfly, but I like everything else around it". He he.
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Kind of complicated, atmospheric crime thriller.
Robert J. Maxwell19 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Nice shots of the bayou under the opening credits. Unspoiled rivers, pristine swamps, oaks draped with Spanish moss. It all looks rather promising. I guess you can still find such subtle but majestic littorals, maybe along route 90 around Houma, but from most highways in southern Louisiana all you see is oily swamp water with derricks planted in it. Beer cans and garbage and, quien sabe?, corpses floating in the murk.

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.
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Baldwin Could've Been Hard-Boiled But Ends Up Soggy
I remember going to great lengths to fit a matinée showing of HEAVEN'S PRISONERS into a busy Saturday afternoon during its 1996 theatrical release. Considering the source material and the talent behind and in front of the camera, our little filmgoing party of detective-film fans and Alec Baldwin groupies (a.k.a. my mom, my stepfather, and me) found this contemporary film noir to be a big disappointment. Baldwin, who also served as co-producer, brought James Lee Burke's New Orleans ex-cop/recovering alcoholic hero Dave Robichoux from the printed page to the big screen. While Baldwin and the rest of the cast did well in fleshing out Burke's characters and have some tangy tough-guy/gal dialogue, they're hampered by two things: 1.) The film's slo-o-o-ow pacing. Maybe the Louisiana heat got to everyone, not just Baldwin. Of all the actors, Long Island native Baldwin sweats the most, so much that it began to remind me of the sweating-bullets gags with Albert Brooks in BROADCAST NEWS and Robert Hays in AIRPLANE! 2.) A plot that, as rendered in the film (whether it's the fault of the screenwriter or the editor, I can't be sure), never quite follows through on any of its elements. It's too bad, because these elements could've made for an exciting movie: drug dealing, illegal alien smuggling, rival crime bosses (one is played colorfully by Eric Roberts before he became a parody of himself, essentially playing a Southern-fried version of his character from director Phil Joanou's 1992 thriller FINAL ANALYSIS), an adorable little Salvadoran orphan girl (named "Alafair" by the Robichouxs, after Dave's mom. Late in my pregnancy at the time, I liked the name Alafair so much, I nearly changed my mind about naming my then-unborn daughter Siobhan!), and a bevy of beautiful, beguiling women, including earth mother Kelly Lynch, vampy Teri Hatcher in a full-frontal nude scene that was much ballyhooed at the time, and Mary Stuart Masterson, looking like a young Jessica Lange in what was then a change-of-pace role for her: a troubled stripper who loves Robichoux. Despite the sexy promises in the movie's ads, none of the ladies share anything with Baldwin but dialogue and some kisses and/or embraces. Maybe the climate was already so hot, the filmmakers didn't want to add any further steaminess for fear of poor Baldwin collapsing from heat prostration! As my mom put it at the time: "I thought the height of my day would be seeing sexy, dashing Alec Baldwin, but he came up sweaty, rumpled, tired, depressed, and moving as if he was in slow motion. If he'd made love as many times as he got beaten up, it would've been the sexiest picture of '96!" To be fair, there *are* a number of strong characterization and action scenes, but there's just too darn much talky, molasses-paced lag time between them -- and yet, oddly, some of the scenes end abruptly just as they're about to become intriguing! Perhaps Joanou, Baldwin & Co. could've dredged a tighter, more involving thriller out of this if they'd whittled the 140-minute running time down to 105 minutes or so. As HEAVEN'S PRISONERS is now...well, read James Lee Burke's books instead.
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I beg to differ
bob_bear29 April 2005
I thought the opening scene was one of the best movie openings I've ever watched - beautifully written and sensitively played.

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.
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Is This A Drinks Commercial ?
Theo Robertson26 April 2005
Dave who is a former cop and former drunk takes his wife on a fishing trip and sees a plane crash and rescues a young girl from a watery grave which sets up the plot

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
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For Teri Hatcher fans only
LeMond22 April 2005
The movie is in my opinion not worth seeing if you're not a fan of the beautiful actress Teri Hatcher. The highlight of the movie is undoubtedly the scene where she stands completely nude on a balcony and shows us viewers a good view of her very lovely breasts. If you look very closely you can also see her pubic hair and a very pretty ass through the railing as she turns and walks away. Thanks for that very special moment,Teri! She has of course other scenes in the movie but none of them leave a very lasting impression. Without the nude scene I would probably rate this movie a 5 but because of Teri's body I'll give it a 9.
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Not good at all
man-with-many-doubts19 April 2005
The characters are not believable. The story itself is not good enough in my opinion. There is no tension in the story to speak of. The direction is unimaginative. There is stuff in this movie that is totally irrelevant to the plot. I guess all of it was introduced in the name of character development. I would have preferred if some 30 irrelevant minutes were cut out. Acting is ordinary if not terrible. Baldwin is OK but the rest of the cast is very hard to watch. All in all a waste of time. The one, perhaps the only redeeming feature, is the location at which this film was shot. It is gorgeous. I think I'm being generous in giving it a 4 out of 10.

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).
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Goes nowhere, and takes FOREVER to get there!
bheyer29 December 2004
This movie goes absolutely NOWHERE, and it takes its sweet time getting there. All of the characters talk like they just left a Humphrey Bogart/Dashiell Hammett/Raymond Chandler film noir picture from the '40's, only highlighted with Cajun accents, instead. Lotsa' veiled threats; I mean EVERY cliché in the book, and then some. Star, Alec Baldwin, is horribly miscast, and runs the acting gamut from "A" to "B." Dennis Quaid, who starred in the earlier, and FAR superior, "The Big Easy," would've made a much better choice for leading man. Alas, we're STUCK with one of the acting-challenged Baldwin Brothers. Poor us! Some of the other posters on this thread made mention of "bloopers." Well, I didn't see them, woe is me. If I had known about them, earlier, I'm sure they would've provided me with some impetus to stay with this "yawner" without dozing-off, from time-to-time. As it is, if you miss Teri Hatcher's ("Desperate Housewives") EXQUISITE nude scene near the beginning of the film, you really have nothing to stick around for. If I had a choice to make, either watch THIS movie, OR the aforementioned "The Big Easy," I'd go with the latter film, EVERY day of the week, and TWICE on Sunday! Again, to be seen ONLY for Teri Hatcher's full-frontal (the collar matches the cuff!) nude scene.
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