A conservative judge is appointed by the President to spearhead America's escalating war against drugs, only to discover that his teenage daughter is a crack addict. Two DEA agents protect an informant. A jailed drug baron's wife attempts to carry on the family business.
Benicio Del Toro,
The night he retires as a Nevada sheriff, Jerry Black pledges to the mother of a murdered girl that he will find the killer. Jerry doesn't believe the police arrested the right man; he discovers this is the third incident in the area in the recent past with victims young, blond, pretty, and small for their age. So he buys an old gas station in the mountains near the crimes in order to search for a tall man who drives a black station wagon, gives toy porcupines as gifts, and calls himself the wizard: clues from a drawing by the dead girl. Jerry's solitary life gives way to friendship with a woman and her small, blond daughter. Has Jerry neglected something that may prove fatal? Written by
The picture was a passion project for writer/director Sean Penn and actor Jack Nicholson. Unfortunately, the screenplay was turned down by every major studio in Hollywood. Producer Elie Samaha, and his studio Franchise Pictures, who specialized in picking up screenplays in turnaround, quickly pounced on the material and signed up Penn and Nicholson for a reduced fee. The pair agreed as long as Penn could have complete creative and casting control. See more »
There are no tunnels outside Reno, Nevada. See more »
I'm not that crazy about the story, which has been put to film at least twice before. (I think the other movie is The Cold Light of Day.) In the other movie, which was set in one of the Soviet bloc countries, there was also a serial killer after young girls, and the detective makes the morally questionable decision to put a girlfriends daughter unknowingly at risk to use as bait. The swingset for the girl beside the road (where the killer would be sure to see her) was copied over from the novel.
For sheer moviemaking prowess, though, this team of actors and Penn as the director is unbeatable. Every performance comes across with perfect sincerity and you forget you are looking at famous actors. There are some surreal touches as well, when bit players from the early part show up on screen late in the story with non speaking roles.
Four stars. Even if you don't like Jack Nicholson.
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