Flesh and Bone (1993) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
49 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
10/10
What's up with the 5's
hughman5522 August 2010
Once in a while you come across someone who is a little odd, or haunted, or unsociable, or all of the above, and you wonder to yourself how they might have gotten that way. What made them that way? Why are they so terminally sad? Steve Koves has brought us the back story to those questions. His script and handling of the story are stellar. This is not a happy film. But it is a fascinating one.

Everyone in this cast is at their best. But it is Dennis Quaid, who gives the best performance of his ample career, that breaths this story to life, or, death, as it were. He plays Arliss. Arliss has a nickel and dime vending machine business that takes him through the most desolate parts of Texas. His work is so lowly that he doesn't even handle paper money. Coins and dyed chickens are his stock and trade. He pours himself into his boring work as if he is trying to take his mind off of something. Something unpleasant. We know what that something is from the opening of the movie. What unfolds now is the picture of what a destroyed life looks like as it tries to outrun it's past. Quaid is brilliant at creating a haunted and wounded Arliss without making him pathetic. He is the obscure guy you might run across unexpectedly that makes you go, hmmm, what happened to him.

There is nothing about this film that isn't first rate. I am mystified by it's "average" rating here on this site. I suppose if you hate good scripts, skillful directing, brilliant performances, and haunting sound and cinematography, I guess I could see giving this movie a 5. It is certainly possible not to like this type of film. But it is negligent, as a viewer, not to acknowledge it's quality. It is an excellent piece of film making and Dennis Quaid shows just what a brilliant and understated actor he is. James Caan, Meg Ryan, and Gwyneth Paltrow are also up to Quaids level here. I highly recommend this movie. It's different. It's interesting. It's engrossing. And it's brilliantly done.
58 out of 61 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Haunting and lovely
inkblot1116 August 2003
Arlis (Dennis Quaid) is a vending machine owner who roams from town to town in West Texas. Greatly disturbed by horrific memories from his childhood, Arlis fails to connect with the women he meets. He prefers trysts with married women where no strings are attached. All of this changes the day Arlis meets Kay (Meg Ryan). Running away from an abusive and spendthrift husband, Kay encounters Arlis in a bar under amusing circumstances. Soon after, she is traveling with him on his circuit and they are falling in love. Bliss, however, is short. Arlis' evil father (James Caan) re-enters the life of his son and Arlis must once again suffer the consequences of the ties that bind them. Will it be possible for Arlis to break free from his past and begin a new life with Kay?

This is, truly, one of the most haunting films ever made. The story is a multi-faceted study of the nature of good and evil. Quaid and Ryan give such depth to their doomed and complex characters that the viewer stays mesmerized as the story unfolds. Caan, too, is a wonder as the bad-to-the-bone father. As for the sweeping and lovely cinematography, it perfectly realizes the beauty and desolation that is west Texas. The final scenes are guaranteed to put a lump in anyone's throat, tears included. Recommended highly for discriminating movie fans everywhere.
32 out of 35 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
A Classic Film Noir
rbirge-117 June 2007
You will never see Meg Ryan in a role like this. She was phenomenal and it is unfortunate she did not get more roles like this. Dennis Quaid and Gwyneth Paltrow were also excellent and these three make the film worth watching. James Caan is fine, but his role is so one- dimensional that no actor can do much with it, and indeed he didn't.

This film is a must see because of the characters. The plot is compelling and very dark, but the characters shine through and illuminate each other in a way that is unique because each character has dimensions that are not explained. Paltrow's character seems like a throwaway, but may be the most important of all. If I were teaching a course on film, I would select this one and ask the students to explain why it works. I usually think I know why a film is excellent, and yet after this film ended, I knew I could not put it into words. The purpose of this review is to suggest you watch this one if you get a chance because you may love it. Most who watched this movie were pleased but unenthusiastic. This film is much, much better than the 6.2 rating it had when I checked.
30 out of 31 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
High Plains Vendor
rrichr29 April 2003
I've been thankful for many things during the strange journey that has been my life. Among them was that I had never seen nor heard of Gwyneth Paltrow before seeing Steven Kloves' unsung, too-often trashed work, Flesh and Bone. Although this film has been deemed unwatchable by some; primarily, I suspect, by those who simply cannot deal with Meg Ryan in any form, Flesh and Bone is entirely watchable and often engrossing.

I stumbled onto it by accident one afternoon, when the film I had paid to see suffered a projector crash, leaving me to wander the nearly empty multiplex at my leisure. Flesh and Bone, said the sign over the door. Hmm. supernatural thriller with voodoo elements? Well, not really, although the scene that greeted me as I entered: a very scary-looking James Caan, with shotgun, skulking through a shadowy interior, made me think my initial assessment had been close (I had entered its theater a few minutes after the film had started.) Just a few more minutes passed before I realized that I was in the presence of something, at the least, unusual. First, considerable time elapsed without Dennis Quaid flashing his '55 DeSoto grille grin even once. In fact, he was scowling like all getout. Meg Ryan barely smiled either and it was well into the film before she first flipped her hair (while talking about pickles). Very strange. Being something of a sucker for films that cast against type, I was getting pulled in. But WHO was the spooky chick who kept walking in and out of various scenes, shoplifting something in almost each case?

That was Gwyneth, of course. If she had played the role of the deeply alienated Ginnie later in her career, she certainly could have pulled it off, but the mystery of her character, the thing that made you try to imagine the circumstances that had created such a creature, would never have manifested. It just would have been Gwynnie playing Ginnie. I'll be honest, I've remained immune to the whole Gwyneth thing. To me, she's something like Gouda cheese; certainly edible, but best if you're in the mood for a snack with somewhat more aroma than flavor. I admit that I've always dug her Mom, Blythe Danner, among the most delicately fair of all cinematic flowers. But I loved Gwyneth Paltrow in this film, still do, and always will. I don't think she stole the show, as some seem to, but her perfectly-played Ginnie was absolutely essential to it.

The rather default brutality that lurks in Flesh and Bone could seem artificial, but against the historical backdrop of Texas, where it is set, the film's slant makes sense. Texas history has been drenched in blood and tragedy from the start; Cabeza De Vaca, the lonely, ignominous demise of the LaSalle expedition, which foundered and was swallowed up on its Gulf Coast in an attempt to navigate the Mississippi northward, conflict with Spain and Mexico, the Comanche terror, the slaughter of its vast buffalo herds, its rape by oil and cattle culture, Texas politicians (just hitting a few high spots). Merely passing through the state can give one the sense that a loose black hole is about, not a massive one, but big enough.

Flesh and Bone is a promenade of the gravitationally doomed. Everyone in the film seems to be drifting toward the event horizon of an unseen singularity, just beginning to be stretched out of shape. Closest to oblivion is James Caan's chilling Roy Sweeney, a character in the mold of Christopher Walken's very bad dad in At Close Range but chicken-fried to the brink of carbonization; a man for whom conscience is no longer even a concept. Plunging close behind is his son Arliss (Quaid), someone who, after matriculating under his father's brutal tutelage, has become an exile to his own life. His flickering soul is not quite dead yet, but give it time. Meg Ryan's Kay Davies, the unknowing survivor, as an infant, of the film's opening horror, is a type of gently tragic heroine one can see anywhere, but most often in the South, the most culturally monolithic and unforgiving region of an unforgiving America. (Texas is the West but also, most certainly, the South.) Free-form and fundamentally cheerful personalities like Kay's may not always fare well there, unless legitimized by kids and a ring; something her character is beginning to understand as she pops, drunk, out of a paper cake at a roadhouse hoo-rah. Paltrow's Ginnie is possibly the most recent gravitational captive, but she has entered the plunge with cryogenic conviction, forming a binary dark star with Caan's character.

I liked this little film enough to collect it and have never regretted it. There is real psychological texture, a noiresque sense of doom, convincing intimacy set against a vast West Texas backdrop, a house haunted by ghosts living and dead, a brief, poignant performance by the never-failing Scott Wilson, a great score by the brilliant Thomas Newman (I started watching the TV series Boston Public just to hear its opening theme music, which he composed) and a closing scene as mythic as that of any cowboy classic. The film's conclusion flirts a bit with improbability but still works because, dear friends, karma does exist. It's not just a hippie word. Leave the Anti-Megs to their own gravitational plunge and enjoy.
49 out of 57 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Underrated Gem
carnivalofsouls17 April 2002
"Flesh and Bone" remains to be one of the great films of the nineties, sitting alongside "Bright Angel" as one of the decade's most tragically neglected classics. Perhaps the fact it contains such a high degree of subtlety was why it wasn't appreciated when it was first released, the most frequently stated criticism being that its climax is dramatically unsatisfying, yet its somber ending works perfectly. Outside of "Hurlyburly" it is unquestionably Meg Ryan's finest performance, the same going for Quaid who gives his character a quiet desperation that becomes quite devastating by the end. Caan is great as always, but it is Paltrow who really impresses, playing a role bereft of the sugary sweetness that plagued the majority of her roles that followed. Scott Wilson also shines in a small but memorable role. "Flesh and Bone" may never receive the attention it deserves, which is a shame because it is unquestionably a lyrical masterpiece, beautifully shot and acted, recalling those low-key gems of the seventies like "The Rain People". Highly recommended.
32 out of 38 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
It ain't my face the boys want to see.
lastliberal27 May 2007
This is not a film where everything appears obvious. It is dark and complicated. It is about how the past haunts you and affects your life in the present. It is the stuff that Freud would have fun dealing with.

The stars in this film give performances that are among the best in their careers.

Dennis Quaid (Frequency, Far From Heaven) is clearly the lead in this picture as the son of a soulless murderer and thief (James Caan). He carries the devil with him through his life and it affects his relationships with women. He runs into an abused housewife (Meg Ryan, in a non-romantic role), and they travel the back-roads of Texas together. Gwyneth Paltrow (Shakesphere in Love) is a thief that plays Caan's companion, even if he is old enough to be her grandfather.

This is written and directed by the Oscar nominated (Wonder Boys) writer of all of the Harry Potter movies, Steve Kloves. He does a fabulous job.

Definitely a movie to watch when you get a chance.
16 out of 21 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Stormy, mature thriller
NateWatchesCoolMovies25 February 2016
Flesh And Bone is not the glamorous pair up you'd expect from a matrimonial Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan. It's a dark, grim and menacing tale of corrupted innocence, evil deeds and the sour fate that brings them full circle. Quaid plays Arlis Sweeney, a small time vending machine dealer with a dark past. His usual charm and appeal is gone here, a stormy, traumatized sheet on his face instead of that usual mile wide smile. Arlis harbors a troubling secret: He watched his no good criminal daddy murder an entire family when he was but a youngster, leaving him a haunted soul. His path crosses with rowdy, promiscuous Kay Davies (Meg Ryan) a girl with mysterious secrets of her own which eerily relate to Arlis's own past. When demon daddy re-enters his life, there's a thunderclap of portentous dread that mounts on the horizon like the ashen clouds of southern Texas where the film was shot. His name is Roy Sweeney, and he's played by a cackling James Caan, slithering into the skin of a character so unredeemable and nasty that we feel the slime emanating from the screen. He's a guy that danger follows around like a curse, and for better or for worse, Arlis must reconcile his own twisted mind and bring the legacy of bloodshed to a halt. Tagging along with Roy is a skanky and very young Gwyneth Paltrow, basically walking collateral damage. It's a heavy thriller with few breaks for breathing room, but it rolls with the violent, south western pulp we've come to love from artists like Cormac McCarthy and the like, adding it's own moody, laconic pace that heightens to unbearable tension with little notice and less flair, making it hit you all the harder. Supporting turns weigh in from Christopher Rydell, Barbara Alyn Woods, John Hawkes and character actor Scott Wilson as Arlis's dodgy business partner. Great stuff if you can shake the doom and gloom off after and hold onto the stark beauty and tragedy that it's laced with.
9 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Stark as West Texas itself.
michaelRokeefe15 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
A compelling movie with earthy characters and slow seemingly unintentional situations. And sometimes as drab as a West Texas sandstorm. Dennis Quaid is excellent as the laid back Arlis Sweeney, a vending machine distributor, who lives with the memories of a multiple murder committed by his father Roy(James Caan)decades ago. On his West Texas vending circuit, Arlis meets up with a young waitress with marital problems. Kay(Meg Ryan)is brooding, but easily as wild as a "March hare". This is back in the day when Ryan could curdle blood with a girlish pout. There is reluctant chemistry between Kay and Arlis...but unbridled passion. The story gets a little deep and dark with the arrival of a wounded Roy and his round-a-about hanger-on girlfriend Ginnie(Gwyneth Paltrow). Ryan makes the best of the dialog. The scenery is interesting, bleak and humble; filmed at Monohans in the vicinity of Odessa, Texas.
6 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Underrated slice of Southern Gothic
tieman6414 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
"We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell." – Oscar Wilde

One of the better "forgotten films" of the 1990s, "Flesh and Bone" was written and directed by Steve Kloves. Due to the film's box-office failure, Kloves abandoned film directing as a career.

The plot? Dennis Quaid plays Arlis, a vending machine repairman who strikes up a relationship with Kay (Meg Ryan), a perky but wounded girl. Kay falls in love with Arlis, but because his murderous father slaughtered her family many years ago, Arlis terminates their relationship. He believes himself to be carrying the very same "evil" that flows through his father's veins. Better to remain alone, Arlis thinks. Stick to fixing vending machines, lay low, and don't give evil a chance to work through you. That's his code.

Unfortunately Daddy, played by James Caan, comes to town, forcing Arlis to make a choice: embrace evil to vanquish evil, or step aside and let evil prevail.

Arlis' pacifism, his repression, his fear of becoming his violent father, is typical of the genre (think Will Munny in "Unforgiven" or Michael Shannon in "Shotgun Stories"). What Kloves does, though, is mirror Arlis' anxieties about his own violent potential to the free-spirited personality of Kay, a woman who slowly draws Arlis out of his shell. Symbolically, she wills Arlis' father out of the past, forcing the son to confront a history which he's spent his life repressing.

If the film's demarcations (good, evil, light, dark, father, son) seem simplistic, it's because the film is tapping into a rich culture of Texan noirs, Southern Gothic literature and Westerns, all of which tend to rely on fairly simple archetypes. But this is the film's strength. It's a gloomy fairy tale, with actor James Caan as the manipulative, terrifying, big bad wolf, and Randy and Meg as two hapless kids lost in the enchanted forest.

Kloves starts his tale quietly – literally a silent home invasion – and then slowly builds the tension. His shots are straight out of the noir and Wild West textbook, actors striking John Wayne poses, often framed by doorways or dwarfed by empty, Texan vistas. The film's prose is itself wonderfully moody, Kloves' actors perpetually scowling, brooding or delivering menacing dialogue. Aesthetically, the picture recalls the unnerving highways, flatlands and motels of Terrance Malick, Wim Wenders or Cormac McCarthy. Here, the "sins of fathers" always threaten to infect subsequent generations, such that the present is always unsettling, and the future always ripe for derailment.

8/10 – See "Shotgun Stories".
8 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
An underrated classic
jackstanley4 January 2006
Perhaps some people only want to see Meg Ryan in romantic comedies, or perhaps IMDb voters give this a low average rating because 'nothing happens', but look beneath the surface and you will find a dark and haunting drama of the first order, with the best work from all involved for many years before or since.

Steve Kloves, completely 'miscast' as the adaptive screenwriter for the Harry Potter films (he writes in American, for heaven's sake) here produces a great original work as a writer/director, utilizing some amazing visuals from Phillipe Rousselot (d.o.p.) and music from Thomas Newman (a score suitably subtle, haunting and moving). Caan, Ryan and a pre-fame Gwyneth Paltrow are all on top form but the real star here is Dennis Quaid, whose face, a canvas of tortured memories and struggling decency, says more than Kloves could ever hope to write. As director he chooses wisely; he gives Quaid a single line, then keeps the camera rolling.
23 out of 30 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
"Flesh and Bone," an artistically told story in the Texas Outback, gives us a cultural peek at ways of life we would probably not encounter otherwise...
judybevers2 July 2000
"Flesh and Bone," with it's superb actors and their portrayals of an artistically told story in the Texas Outback, gives us a cultural peek at ways of life we would probably not encounter otherwise while solving a crime mystery and telling a cowboy's love story.

Haunted by his childhood, Arlis, so realistically portrayed by Dennis Quaid, reveals to us what being a cowboy is about. Running his business across West Texas with his memories, his devil on his heels, Arlis triumphs and beats his flesh and bone genetics. His double star-crossed love for the same child and woman unfolds as the story is told and he becomes a lonesome hero worthy of his lone star.

Gwyneth Paltrow's acting talents can be seen as she makes you believe she is Ginnie, a waiflike con seemingly devoid of any feelings other than borderline necrophilia and spiteful nastiness.

James Caan, as Roy, is Arlis' cruel father and Ginnie's old-enough-to-be-her-grandfather lover. Caan plays the the villain of both the past and the present with a calculated coldness that literally makes his eyes sparkle. (Watch for it!) Roy will make you ever thankful for the your own father who raised you, and your respect for and understanding of his son Arlis grows with the movie.

Meg Ryan makes us want to embrace Kay, the drunken but lovely cake dancer caught in an abusive marriage but who falls in love with cowboy Arlis. Ryan works her magic portraying Kay as a gentle, sometimes-intelligent, sometimes-naive soul who has been down on her luck since a fateful night before her first birthday but who still manages to smile at the world and believe in hope.

Caan's and Paltrow's characters, people who we pray we never meet, come off with a game playing realness that makes us remember why we lock our doors in our motel rooms and our homes. This uneasiness is balanced by the empathy we have for Ryan's and Quaid's good to the bone characters.

Never has a cowboy's love been better explained than in Dennis Quaid's face in the final moments of the film.

Four four-star performances by four top actor, this overlooked movie will become a classic someday in the near future.
28 out of 36 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
"Flesh and Bone," an artistically told story in the Texas Outback, gives us a cultural peek at ways of life we would probably not encounter otherwise...
judybevers2 July 2000
"Flesh and Bone," with it's superb actors and superb portrayals of an artistically told story in the Texas Outback, gives us a cultural peek at ways of life we would probably not encounter otherwise while solving a crime mystery and telling a cowboy's love story.

Haunted by his childhood, Arlis, so realistically portrayed by Dennis Quaid, reveals to us what being a cowboy is about. Running his business across West Texas with his memories, his devil on his heels, Arlis' triumphs and beats genetics. His double star-crossed love for the same child and woman unfolds as the story is told and he becomes a lonesome hero worthy of his lone star.

Gwyneth Paltrow's acting talents can be seen as she makes you believe she is Ginnie, a waifish con seemingly devoid of any feelings other than perhaps borderline necrophilia and spiteful nastiness.

James Caan, as Roy, is Arlis' cruel father and Ginnie's old-enough-to-be-her-grandfather lover. Caan plays the the villain of both the past and the present with a calculated coldness that literally makes his eyes sparkle. (Watch for it!) Roy will make you ever thankful for the your own father who raised you, and your respect for and understanding of his son Roy grows with the movie.

Meg Ryan makes us want to embrace Kay, the drunken but lovely cake dancer caught in an abusive marriage but who falls in love with cowboy Arlis. Ryan works her magic portraying Kay as a gentle, sometimes-intelligent, sometimes-naive soul who has been down on her luck since a fateful night before her first birthday but who still manages to smile at the world and believe in hope.

Caan's and Paltrow's characters, people who we pray we never meet, come off with a game playing realness that makes us remember why we lock our doors in our motel rooms and our homes. This uneasiness is balanced by the empathy we have for Ryan's and Quaid's good to the bone characters.

Never has a cowboy's love been better explained than in Dennis Quaid's face in the final moments of the film.

Four four-star performances by four top actor, this overlooked movie will become a classic someday in the near future.
12 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
meg and dennis rock
sandcrab27717 August 2021
I loved this film except for james caan who always try to act the real bad ass when he plain cannot act ... gwyneth paltrow was excusable for playing the dumb twerp ... meg ryan and dennis quaid made this a film worth watching for me each time i viewed it ... if they had left out caan i would have rated it higher.
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Has flaws, but enjoyable nonetheless
smatysia18 March 2019
In spite of some flaws, I liked this movie pretty well. Yes, some of the plot turns were highly predictable, but I don't spend my time with a movie trying to predict what's going to happen. I just enjoy it (hopefully). Dennis Quaid was Ok here. I've never cared for him that much, but he is playing a taciturn character, and people always criticize that as bad acting. I disagree. Meg Ryan looked adorable, as always, and played her complicated role very well. I say check it out.
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
An Amazing Surprise
wwiiboomer22 February 2022
Warning: Spoilers
This was a delightful discovery of budding stars in their earlier days in becoming what they are today... famous & admired for their great acting skills & talents they've portrayed time & time again in major films! It was amazing to see how young & promising these actors & actresses displayed in such earlier production settings. It seems a lifetime ago. This film is truly a gem & well worth watching!
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
5/10
Good-Looking Actors But An Ugly Film
ccthemovieman-118 March 2006
Well, it's tough to find more attractive leads than real-life husband-wife Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan but the film is one ugly one. I watched it twice in the past 10 years but canned it halfway through on the second look because it just had too sleazy a feel. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth. You need to take a shower after watching this film.

Like many older classic movies, this centered more on character development and was interesting for at least one look, so I'm NOT totally slamming the film. Quaid and Ryan trade off each other as adulterers in the story - which is "okay" they both say - and James Caan plays Quaid's sicko father and he's a bit scary. Gwyneth Paltrow is the final main character and she's as much, of not more, of a lowlife than the others. This was her first role in films, I've read.

Ryan looks as good as she ever looked: just beautiful, but she's so trashy in here that it makes her lose her appeal. Everyone's trashy in here, actually. That's the film: trailer trash to a "T."
13 out of 40 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Fine performances; first class writing and direction
claude-1823 March 1999
Very few false moments in this Sydney Pollack ensembled film. Steven Kloves shows skilled insight as both writer and director here, putting fine oblique touches to his dialogue, applying a steady observant eye (with DP Phillipe Rousselot's help) to the blocking and shooting, and using Thomas Newman's music to optimum effect. His sparse and well-placed music cues highlight the great writing by Tom Newman here, which is of a quality equal to Newman's later score for Horse Whisperer. TN is truly one of the most evocative composers working in film this decade.

Flesh and Bone features the best acting I've ever seen Meg Ryan do, though she won't probably cite it herself, any more than Sarandon cites Lorenzo's Oil. Disregard the flack. Serious character work going on here if you want to see what Ryan can really do.

Her hubby Dennis Quaid antes up too, combining sullen, well modulated internal work with a wry vocal tone and a great understanding of his character's moment to moment decision making. No rakish charm here.

Paltrow is surprisingly edgy and cynical, although mostly a foil for Ryan and Caan. Caan is workman-like, effective, but a hair hammier than the rest. Luckily the script and director don't give Jimmy too much rein; he's done better (For fine Caan see Chapter Two or Thief). Overall, Flesh and Bone is a solid nine drama, well worth renting, and graced with a few story surprises. Real film buffs will be gratified.
11 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
What a great film
yespat14 March 2004
I do not understand how this movie did not ever receive its due. An unusual story, surprises happen throughout. Not your typical Hollywood movie.

Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid were perfectly cast. I don't think I've ever seen Meg display her acting chops with such vigor as in this film. She was wonderful. I'd love to see her take on more roles like this and in movies this interesting.

James Caan could not have played a more evil character and he was great. And Gwynneth Paltrow, in her part, what a surprise! She was great too.

This is a winner film that for some reason has been sorely overlooked. If you have not seen it, go out and get it. Even though it's not an uplifting film in its content, it's uplifting in its intelligent spirit.
7 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Thought-provoking film noir
mike_elston19 December 2009
If this film had been made in black-and-white in the 1940s, it would surely by now be regarded as a classic. But shot in sweeping colour, set against panoramas of the Texas outback, to a backdrop alternating between isolated bars and run-down motels, sunny plains and dark rainstorms, this must be one of the best modern films noir I've seen in a long time.

The four main characters -- played brilliantly and understatedly by Quaid, Ryan, Caan and Paltrow -- are bound together as events unfold and their layers are gradually peeled back for us: aspects of the darker side of human nature that raise questions about blood ties ("flesh and bone") and feelings, guilt and conscience (or the lack of it), and responsibility.

I'm surprised I haven't come across this film before, and delighted to have have it now in my collection. An unsung gem, tersely written and thoughtfully directed by Steve Kloves, and brilliantly visualised by cinematographer Philippe Rousselot and editor Mia Goldman. There are no excesses, great little touches and observations, hidden depths, and a lean story. Definitely one to see again.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
A great film and a lesson to be learned.
gtbarker30 January 2005
I came across this film as many others have, by chance and loved it. It is an intelligent and absorbing story with excellent performances from all involved. The locations are great too and are all beautifully shot. Now for the lesson - if you want to see great films stay away from the big studio productions with huge distribution budgets to settle and ignore the hype. The big Hollywood production houses have forgotten the art great movie making. I'm afraid the only thing they know how to do now is how to sell them, instead of how to make them. Make no mistake this was a great film and suffered because no one sold it and so was largely ignored.
7 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Truly Dostoevskian, and A Darned Good Film Too
allan196916 April 2001
I'm not sure how many other fans of this excellent film realize that it's really an argument against determinism--in this case, biological determinism, but it could also be used as a valid refutation of environmental determinism. Father/murderer James Caan believes that since he himself is evil, and since his son's blood is the same as his, then his son Arlis (Dennis Quaid) must also have evil tendencies--as if Arlis is powerless to act otherwise. Arlis even buys into this nonsense: "It's not in your blood"; "If you're born to it..." He lives a solitary life, as if he's afraid that establishing a close relationship with someone would endanger them, because of the evil taint of his bloodline and his consequent evil potential--which isn't really there at all. But he realizes at the end that we all make our own decisions by means of our free will, and that our bloodline has nothing to do with that process. ("That's nothing. It's only blood.") Dostoevsky knew this too, when in CRIME AND PUNISHMENT or THE POSSESSED (I forget which) he shows how the revolutionaries of that era believed that "the environment" determines all human action--and he also saw how dangerous this idea is. The 20th century was a grim validation of his prophecies.
11 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Why I Liked This Movie
grace6574626 July 2004
A friend gave me this tape a few weeks ago, it did not have a cover and I had never heard of it. I was surprised to see who starred in it. Meg Ryan is one of my favorite actresses. She did a real good job of making this part come alive. But I still think the biggest surprise was seeing James Caan play a role without any feeling. He really was evil in this role and was believable as this person. The movie itself really makes you think that whatever you do will eventually come back to haunt you no matter what you do. I also liked Gwyneth Paltrow in the role of a thief, but I wished that I knew why she did the things that she did. And why she would stay with a man that was pure evil. I guess that is what makes the movie so thought provoking. I'm glad that a friend gave this to me to watch, because if I had seen the title I would have thought it was a horror movie. I have since talked other friends into watching it and all have liked it. I would recommend this movie to anyone.
12 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Thought provoking
murphy-146 March 1999
This was surprisingly good and thoughtful. At first I couldn't make the connection between the opening sequences and the rest, but it came together well. Relationship between Ryan character and Quaid handled well. One of Ryan's most interesting performances I think.
7 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
FORGOTTEN FANTASTIC NEO-NOIR...GOOD CAST...SHARP SCRIPT...BLEAK STUFF
LeonLouisRicci26 August 2021
A Neo-Noir with a Good Young Cast, Dennis Quaid, Gwenth Paltrow, and Meg Ryan.

Although Meg Ryan is the Lead, it's Paltrow with a Cynical Performance who Shines.

Meg Ryan Overacts as Usual Relying Mostly on Her Cute Appeal.

Dennis Quaid gives a Gloomy, Downbeat Turn as a Southern "Good-Ol-Boy" with a Haunted Past.

James Caan in an Evil Personified Role is OK, but most of the Screen-Time is Allotted to the Three Tarnished Young Adults.

The Mood is Sun-Baked-Noir.

A Rustic Environment of Struggling Lower-Class Whites Eeking Out a Meager Living of Nickels and Dimes from Bars, Diners, and Gas-Stations.

The Story is a Bleak One that has Quaid and Ryan Hooking Up, but the Down-Beat Tone will Only Allow a Glimmer of Light in Their Dusty Existence.

A Well-Done Production All-Around with a Good Cynical, Snappy Script.

It Seems it was too Depressing and a Downer for Early Nineties Audiences and Flopped Big-Time.

It Deserves a Reconsideration and a New Look from Modernity.

The Neo-Noir Delivery Hits Hard and the Cast, Writing, and Direction make it Work just Fine as it Plays Out its Pulp-Paperback Roots.

With Determined Grit it's a Hard-Look at a Slice of Life from the Underbelly of the Sun-Belt.

Doesn't Sell-Out its Bona-Fides One Bit.
2 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
Haunting and lovely//underrated gem.
kathy535385329 September 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I just want to add that I concur with the summaries by "Amy Adler" and "carnivalofsouls". I think that this movie has absolutely wonderful acting by the entire cast. I disagree with those that feel that the ending doesn't hold up to the rest of the story. How could it end in any other way? Near the beginning Kay (Ryan's character) asks Arlis (Quaid)if he has ever been in love. They both admit to never having really felt that for anyone. Later, as Arlis' father comments to him, he could see that this girl was different for him. He could see the love they each had for the other. But even had the father not shown up, Arlis would have seen her family photograph, he could have made no other decision. And maybe part of the reason for his falling for her was her vulnerability, and his protection of her, even before the very end. He would not have been willing to sacrifice himself, except for the evil childhood that his father willed to him, and the love he had for this young woman. Especially THIS young woman. This woman, he had really fallen in love with. It could end no other way. I want it to. I think that the movie makes us want it to. But given the circumstances of the entire story, the whole point was to "tie up those loose ends." Arlis does this because by this point in his life, this love for Kay, he is forced to truly stand on his own. He just, simply, MUST tie up the loose ends for his own life, as well as to continue to protect the only woman he has ever really loved. And for me, as well as our two main protagonists, it is a devastating heartbreak. But it could end no other way. That is the climax of the entire story. That is the REASON for the story.
10 out of 19 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews


Recently Viewed