Palmetto (1998) Poster


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A Very Underrated 'Neo Noir'
ccthemovieman-118 November 2006
I think this is one of those modern-day film noirs (neo noir) that went under the radar. It is excellent, and few people know about it. It's a very underrated film.

It had an interesting and unpredictable story with some very neat twists which a good noir might have. I'm not really sure I liked the very ending, but I sure enjoyed the rest of it. That entertainment included ogling a couple of sexy female leads, played by Elisabeth Shue and Chloe Sevigny and I loved the wonderful colors in this movie. Not only was the cinematography great, so was the soundtrack with some solid blues tracks. The guitar playing reminded me of the Ry Cooder's work in "Midnight Run."

The movie was labeled by some national critics as a "poor man's 'Body Heat.'" Well, that's fine with me because I liked "Body Heat" a lot, too. If you liked that, you should like this movie, too.

Yes, there are a few holes in the story but nothing that damaged the storyline to any degree. Woody Harrelson was good in the lead and Gina Gershon and Michael Rapaport provided solid performance in supporting roles.
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Slick And Entertaining
rob-23624 May 1999
This slick thriller is entertaining from start to finish. Harrelson plays Harry Barber an ex con who is lured by mega rich temptress Rhea Malroux (Elizabeth Shue) in to helping set up a straight forward bogus kidnap scheme involving her stepdaughter Odette (Chloe Sevigny) It seems simple, he can earn a lot of money for doing very little. As the plot thickens Harry finds out that things, and people, are not what they seem and that is where the trouble begins. Harrelson is convincing in the lead and Sevigny is very good as the rich kid, although Elizabeth Shue tends to overact her part. The biggest crime in this film is that of Gina Gershon, who seems wasted in a weak role as Harry's girlfriend. The film on a whole is good though, and because of this you can almost forgive a 'Batman' style ending!
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Riveting thriller.
gridoon6 March 2003
Apart from one central problem (Elisabeth Shue certainly has the body, but not the inherent tough-girl attitude her role requires; in other words, she's miscast), I personally cannot understand how anyone can claim to be a mystery fan and not like this movie. Absorbing storytelling (which takes its time), some tense moments (the body in the car trunk) and many great, totally unpredictable surprises that even the most hardened genre buffs will not guess. Riveting and interesting from beginning to end. (***)
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Surprises at every turn.
jlms16 December 2003
Although the characters lack credibility (it seems like every single woman in the history, all of them gorgeous, is dying to get into the underwear of the main male character as a matter of urgency).

Nevertheless the plot is unusual and nothing is what it looks. All seems like a normal thriller in which the roles of everybody are the typical ones but the surprises that unfold in the last minutes make it a watchable twist around a theme many times explored before.

The superb luscious ladies and the unusual plot make it a good watch,
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A largely underrated film.
arcav-130 April 2003
I think that "Palmetto" is going to be a cult movie some years from now. It has been clearly underrated. It is "noir", although located in sunny places. It has a sort of kinship relation with George Stevens' A Place in the Sun. And it has a quite good Woody Harrelson in the leading role. Sweat plays more than a role in the plot: characters are sweating all the time (mainly Harry Barber), for different reasons. May be that's why some people dislike it.
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This movie is rated 6 out of 10?
oragex9 June 2013
Seriously, those who rated this like some random stuff, are already medium to heavily hollyntoxicated. This is for the remaining ones who know what lively and charming acting is. This is the kind of entertainment movie I'm not sick to see. It's FRESH, teasing, simple and colored, something Hollywood guys forgot some time ago. Good actors but again not in the H. style (is that a style anyway?). Compared with Hollywood productions this movie is the same as going to a lively, friendly, full with warm locals bar, or going to some fancy club, full of models where nobody's talking with each other. Stop bashing, this is not perfect, but I prefer it to standard movies who are done by the book to the point the actors cannot express themselves any long.
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THE modern film noir classic
kpyatt11 June 2000
This brilliantly-written film has everything a great film noir movie needs. First and foremost, the femme fatale Rhea Malroux, played with cunning accuracy by Elisabeth Shue, and the sucker who gets screwed over, Harry Barber, played by Woody Harrelson. Another important and necessary element is the sticky, hot Florida climate, that adds to the erotic atmosphere. The money is the object of everyone's desire as well. Because of all this and much more, "Palmetto" achieves what every film noir film shoots for. Thrills, surprises, murder and steam. Trailers and reviews made the film sound like a sex romp, when in reality there isn't one nudity shot in the whole thing. Because "Palmetto" is not about nudity. It's more than that, like any good film noir is. It's about TEASING. About strutting and never showing all the goods. Rhea Malroux struts her stuff alright, but never strips. And that's much better than gratuitous sex and nudity. Much better. The film focuses more on the plot, about a fake kidnapping scheme that is sure to please everyone...if it goes smoothly. And of course, it doesn't. Bodies turn up, and people are not who they seem. Harry Barber quickly realizes he's gotten too deep in something he never should have gotten involved in. But after serving two years of a four-year sentence in an 8X10 jail cell for a crime he didn't commit, he feels someone owes him. So he agrees to participate in a fake kidnapping that will get the wife of rich Felix Malroux 500,000 dollars and Harry a nice whopping 50,000. But because Harry is not naughty by nature, he doesn't do well disguising his innocence and his guilt comes through, sweating profusely when the DA Renick calls him in to act as reporter, Harry can't take the "heat". He attempts to call the whole thing off, but once told the money's already been delivered, he can't help it. He wants back in. E. Max Frye is the brilliance here, for his script says it all. Based on an old pulp novel "Just Another Sucker" by European author James Hadley Chase, the film is directed by Volker Schlondorff, who should also be commended. The acting is first rate, and purposefully over-the-top by brilliant Elisabeth Shue as the best femme fatale I personally have ever seen grace the silver screen. This is not a must rent, it's a must BUY!
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Mickey Knox17 December 2000
I saw this film for the second time yesterday and i enjoyed it just as much as the first time. It has everything a black thriller needs. Good plot, with a lot of plot twists, interesting scenes, great characters, and good acting (Woody Harrelson is really good as an ex-convict getting involved in a fake kidnapping). Still the action is slow in many moments. Very good ending. Vote: 7 out of 10.
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Okay Thriller With Tons of Sizzling Sex!
Dan1863Sickles12 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Woody Harrelson plays Harry Barber, a wise guy reporter who just did some jail time for a dirty deal that wasn't his fault. When he gets out of the slam, he just wants his life back. But bad breaks and shifty women soon send him right back into the seamy, sexy world of double deals and decadent rich folks, in a steamy Florida town called PALMETTO.

The plot of this movie is okay, and the story moves along at a slow, but steady pace. But what really makes it work is the sexual subtext of a man fighting to maintain both his moral high ground and his sexual potency while surrounded by a trio of luscious, dangerous women.

At first, Harry Barber's biggest problem is finding a job. When he gets out of jail, his loyal girl friend Nina (Gina Gershon) is waiting to meet him. Dark-eyed Nina is the ideal best pal -- friendly, loving, and supportive. Not only does she take Harry in, she's more than willing to pay for his expenses and keep him on as her "assistant" until he finds a job. The sizzling tension between them is that Nina wants a docile and submissive male concubine while Harry is too macho to accept the pleasures Nina can provide. He's clearly the kind of man who feels that it's emasculating for a woman to have too much money or power in a relationship. Still, Nina is so stunningly attractive and so clearly besotted with him that he almost unwillingly sinks into dependence. Watch the early morning scene where he makes coffee for Nina and tensely waits for her approval!

It's pure Neanderthal male pride that drives Harry to accept a "dirty job" from blonde temptress Rhea Malroux. Elisabeth Shue has never, ever been more radiant than in this classic noir role of the black widow. The sex scenes are sizzling precisely because Rhea is using Harry and preparing to feed on him. Yet when her spoiled step daughter, Odette, appears, Harry is forced to pleasure not one but two of the most dangerous women in Palmetto!

Frankly, the ending of this movie is not very satisfying -- Harry does not really triumph in the end, nor does he learn the value of Nina's loyalty and support. In the end it's more of a paranoid male fantasy than a real classic thriller, but still worth watching just for the sizzling sexual subtext between Harry and his three witches!
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Passable thriller
bob the moo21 December 2003
Released from prison after being cleared of charges, Harry Barber tries to get his life back when he is approached by the beautiful Rhea Malroux with a proposition to make money. It's simple - Rhea's stepdaughter will pretend to be kidnapped, Harry will write the notes and Rhea will get $500,000 ransom money from her rich elderly husband without the police ever getting involved. Needless to say, things don't go totally to plan and, after Harry collects the money, things go badly wrong and he finds himself desperately trying to get out of the web he is caught up in.

An ex-con gets approached by a gorgeous woman and is seduced into committing a simple crime - typical noir territory, cue a twisty thriller where things that are presented as facts turn out to be lies etc. The plot is quite good even if I was waiting for the twists rather than having them come out of leftfield at me. The lack of real surprises was a problem for me as it did turn the story into rather a workmanlike affair at times. The characters aren't great either. Aside from Harry all the others are basic cardboard cut outs of characters rather than being well scripted people.

Harrelson does a good Harry, he has a sort of haggard yet oafish character here who is always one step behind and Woody can do that quite well. Shue is OK as the supposed femme fatale but I couldn't help feel that Gershon would have done a much better job, although at times Shue does look very sexy. Sevigny and Rapaport are both good young actors but neither is really given anything to do here - especially Rapaport who has bad dialogue throughout.

Overall though this is watchable and isn't bad - just routine. It has weaknesses but it does well to ape the atmosphere and prerequisites of the genre well, although it is pretty run of the mill as far as the genre goes. Still worth seeing but if you've seen more than three examples of the genre then you'll know pretty much what to expect.
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Betrayal, lust, greed, sex, kidnapping, a beautiful blonde vixen and the steamy red-hot Florida sunshine, hey what more could you ask from a film!
Brian-27230 September 2000
Warning: Spoilers
Most people I've talked with didn't enjoy this movie, but I clearly disagree I feel this film is one of the better I have viewed in sometime. Though Palmetto has more plot twist and story misdirection than a city slicker being lost in a small town, Palmetto sure leaves the viewer guessing and highly entertained. The setting of a small Florida town fits the storyline perfect thanks to Volker Schlondorff crafting it along with the James Hadley Chase novel. You finally figure the whole plot out in the end, and many like myself didn't like the ending it's like starting over as Harry Barber (Woody Harrelson) once again finds himself in prison. This proves the old adage wrong that you learn from your mistakes, but not in Harry Barber's case as he is once again screwed. Believe me you learn from experience, anyone should no better than to trust a cunning-beauty Mrs. Rhea Malroux (Elisabeth Shue) who plans a kidnapping scheme to good to be true. Because people who plan are only planning for their benefit. So Palmetto has some very basic moral meanings to it some like Harry Barber learn the hardway and remain in mediocrity, while others like Mrs. Donnelly aka Rhea Malroux crash in the end but to only drag others down with them. The twisting of the script and film's setting are probably Palmetto's better qualities. All good performances from Harrelson, Shue,and Gershon. Just to mention Gina Gershon and Elizabeth Shue have beauty and looks that would make any man foam at the mouth. I hope to continue to see Shue and Gershon in many films to come they were the two driving forces of Palmetto. I recommend this film to anyone, but remember you must pay close attention throughout the whole film or will you be as lost as city person in the wilderness.
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I liked a lot this modern film noir
butchfilms29 November 2008
I like this movie very much, each time I catch it by any chance on TV when I am making zapping I watch it again. I think that "Palmetto" deserves 7.5 stars, I was surprised to find out it has just 5.6 stars.

I have always liked the work of Woody Harrelson, but in this movie he is great as the journalist Harry Barber. the supporting cast is very good too.

The plot of the movie is about Harry Barber a journalist that is released from jail for being found innocent. After that he is going to have problems to find a job until a sexy woman proposes him to be involved in a false kidnapping for some easy money, because of this Harry is going to get in a lot of troubles.

I recommend you to watch this movie, I found it very entertaining since the beginning until the end.
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I love a movie I have to study 2 or three times to get it all.!
ccr16 January 2001
I love this kind of movie, with a plot that is not obvious. The kind I have to see it two or three times just to figure it out. It has the same steamyness of "Body Heat" !! All three characters are sultry in their own way. Woody is especially good as the leas character who goes from confidence to trapped.
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Best James Hadley Chase adaptation.
moviestar2622 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Just recently I came across the late author James Hadley Chase. I was surprised at the huge number of novels he had written over the 50s and 60s. A movie I had also watched a movie earlier which was giving reference to behind the inspiration used. I decided to dwell in to the writers works and discover what made him so popular. After reading one I could not give up. I was surprised by the themes and characters that were involved in the novels. Many times it felt like I was not reading a book, but watching a movie. Given the fact that his books were not long made it more easier to complete them. Many of Chase's novels have been adapted in to movies. The trend of Chase adaptations became a cult trend for french and Italian cinema. However here in the west it never took off. Novels like 'Miss Shunaway waves a wand', 'The set up' and 'Hit and run' were adapted for the big screen. Unfortunately they did not make bells ring at the box office. The novel 'Just another sucker' is made in to a movie and The theme became instantly familiar to me as the first few minutes begin to roll. The name of the novel has been changed to 'Palmetto' for the movie. As one watches on you realise the noir atmosphere is prevalent in almost every scene. An old novel's transition to modern day cinema makes an impressive outcome. Both Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Shue were perfect choices for the casting. Their performances really make the movie for what it is.

Volker Schlondorff makes a sincere attempt at presenting his perception of the novel. He has incorporated all his basic understanding of the theme and there is never a feeling that a foreign director made the movie. He has made many dull moments enhanced by capturing the character's expressions. There are a few scenes and moments that make the movie longer in duration but this does not put the viewer off. It was disappointing that the movie did not have huge box office status when it released. Since the theme of kidnapping was used, and one has to contend with releases like 'fargo' and 'The big lebowski', I would assume that this movie went unnoticed. I think that the reason behind its failure was directly due to the incorrect release date. Maybe a year early or late would have had some positive impact on the movie's success ratio.

*********************SPOILERS AHEAD********************* Woody Harrelson plays Harry Barber who is released from prison after spending two years there for no reason. He considers going to Miami but his girlfriend (Gina Gershon) persuades him to not leave. At a bar he encounters a woman who who is the wife of a rich man by the name or Mr Malroux. She tempts him in to a fake kidnapping scheme where her step daughter (Chloe Sevigny) will be involved in. The ranson will be 500,000 dollars. All that Harry has to do is make a phone call and send the threatening letter demanding the ransom. Initially Harry does not approve but later he convinces himself. After meeting the step daughter the plan is put ahead. The girl stays away from home for a short time and her father delivers the money in a suitcase to the location mentioned. He is later shocked to discover that the girl has been killed and he has a body to dispose of that is not easy to do. The local authorities are on the case and 1 plus 1 does not seem to be adding to two for Harry. Plus what he received was not cash at all. The situation becomes more and more sinister and paranoia begins to take over him. To his surprise he later discovers that at every step of the way more and more clues will point towards him as the culprit behind Mr Malroux's daughters disappearance. He realises eventually that he was just used for the whole plan. Eventually he has to prove his innocence to the authorities. ************************END OF SPOILERS**********************

I could not help getting a dejavu of 'Body Heat' while watching this movie. Many situations were reminiscent of the classic. The setting of Florida too was an indicator of this. The constant sweating faces and sexual intimidating scenes also were a giveaway. But the similarities end there. Movies like 'Derailed and 'Out of time' too had a similar concept. The director has incorporated many slow moving frames which highlight plot twists and key moments which are crucial. These are a highlight and really create the right tone at certain intervals. With a running time of 1 hour and 53 minutes the movie does tend to take long to get the plot to progress. Much of the first hour is spent behind planning the kidnapping. However the second hour's pace builds up. Much of that specific portion of the movie delivers plot twists after plot twists. These makes for a very intriguing experiences as the movie progresses. The usage of a background score is very minimum. But the sleazy sounds do appear regularly at important moments because you can't have a noir movie without them. This is one of Woody Harrelson's best performances. He has managed to blend many moods and shades in to one role. We can feel sympathy for his character as well as hating him. We can sense his paranoia and unsettling feeling while just watching him. There are certain moments where one would also laugh at him. He truly did play the man in despair from the heart. Elizabeth Shue would have given any actress from the 40s and 50s a run for their money as she played a femme fatale brilliantly. Her body language and acting were just on the mark.

Overall this is the perfect treat for fans of noir. I would also recommend watching it with others.
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Good suspense mystery
Shift-218 April 1999
Good performance by all involved.Keep me watching for the next twist.The twists caught me off guard. Which makes for a good mystery. As I was watching Gina Gershon it reminded me of another good movie she played a great part in called Bound.This was a well paced movie. Keep my interest from start to end.My score ***3/4 out of *****.
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So-So Noir
gbheron5 March 2001
The color photography is all that'll keep you from thinking it's the late 1940s and you're watching grade B film noir. All the ingredients are there, including (1) a dumb sucker being set up to take the big fall for the femme fatale (2) the related crime which turns out to be far more serious than the protagonist first suspects, (3) the protagonist's voice-over reminding viewers that he is indeed that dumb, and (4) one or two too many plot twists.

Yes, "Palmetto" has them all, and for good measure is set in a hot, wet, sweaty Florida-in-summer locale. The problem is that the plot is a little over blown, the dialogue not nearly as crisp as it should be, not very well directed, and consequently the usually excellent cast seems to have mailed this one in. If you like the genre, or really dig one of the actors, rent it. Otherwise, look for something else.
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A Let Down
Wild-211 August 1998
This movie builds an unoriginal, but exciting plot. This is one of those movies where the ending determines whether it is worth recommending or not. In this case, the end is a really let down. Still, it's pretty good for just something to watch if you got nothing better to do.
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average suspense flick
Bob720 June 1999
This is a good average little suspense flick. Woody is good as the patsy, not too smart, but with some street savey. The babes have him going in circles ... it's not as tight as Wild Things, but a step up from Random Encounter, and about equal to Shadow of Doubt for intrigue and story line. Worth a rental. -Bob
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Under-rated Neo Noir
sankhan9928 September 2013
Another underrated movie on IMDb like many other suspense/mystery thrillers. Seeing the rating on IMDb and then watching suspense/mystery thrillers made me feel that movies of mentioned genre are not rated well here. They are often underrated and because of that many suspense/mystery lovers might have missed quite brilliant movies. I rather put it in a way that Neo Noirs are actually not well rated here.

Any suspense/mystery lover can easily like this movie. Movie has quite good twists and turns which are difficult to predict. Screenplay is written well but could be better. Woody has done great job but I feel Elizabeth was bit over acting. Direction is good. Overall movie has great neo noir feeling.

I recommend this movie specially to neo noir lovers, they will not regret watch it. There are few others which I like to mention are well underrated like Wolfgang's Shattered, John Dhal's Kill me again.
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When a movie doesn't know it's a comedy...
Emmakat6 February 1999
This movie becomes a lot more watchable when you realize how much it has in common with Who Framed Roger Rabbit. First of all, Elizabeth Shue is doing her best Jessica Rabbit impersonation. I truly expected her to say "I'm not bad, I'm just drawn that way." I don't want to give anything away, but there is even "dip" in it that dissolves humans rather than cartoons. It doesn't have a toon town, and there is a bit more sex in this movie, but...well its a reason to see the movie if its the only thing available.
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a promising cast, a disappointing film. two stars**
hermit5813 December 2000
I was excited about the possibilities of Palmetto, I liked most of the cast, the location (Florida) lends itself to the noir style, with the unbearable heat and unpredictable storms, but the film relies too heavily on the so-called "formula" for this genre. The plot is at times too convoluted for even the most attentive viewer to follow, and at other times, it is far too simple. Woody Harrelson gives us a good performance as Harry Barber, a man betrayed by his principles, now understandably bitter and suspicious. Gena Gershon is wasted here in a role too shallow for her abilities, while Elisabeth Shue is stretched too far and fails to be a strong femme fatale. Shue is a fine actor, and certainly sexy enough to lead a man astray, but it just doesn't work here. A better screenplay would have given these actors a chance to breathe life into the steamy landscape. Two Stars out of a possible four.**
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Tries too hard to be Body Heat
momma-319 May 1999
This film is not all that original but is still fun to watch. Of the 3 female characters, Chloe Sevigny is the vampiest. Elizabeth Shue tries too hard and Gina Gershon is just out and out boring. Woody Harrelson's always on time. Overall, I'd give it a 7.
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roland-wirtz24 February 2019
I love James Hadley Chase! His books are classics. Just another sucker is one of his best work and the film is nearly as good. Woody Harrelson rules! If you loved him in True detective you will love him in Palmetto. This one's a hidden gem!
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Elisabeth is a Shue-in for vampiest female
Aqualung-231 October 1998
Although Gina Gershon is absolutely wasted in this film, Elisabeth Shue plays one of the best femme fatales of the Nineties in this film noir. Woody is just enjoy watching his depiction of the hard-luck ex-con. Chloe Sevigny is also interesting as the rascally daughter. I rate this movie highly for the performances but not so high for the plot.
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Pretty good noir
rhefner200221 December 2019
Did you ever notice that in Florida noir films, regardless of the era, there is apparently no air conditioning? The men are all sweaty in the heat and humidity, while the women are always mysteriously cool and dry. Also, in spite of the blazing sunshine, nobody has a tan.

Palmetto contains all these cliches, and many more. The women strut around in sexy dresses, swinging their hips like good femme fatales, and Woody Harrelson's protagonist dresses like a guy out of a Raymond Chandler novel: suit pants, long sleeved shirts, and suspenders in the 90 degree heat. No shorts and T shirt for him. That wouldn't be "noir."

Both Elizabeth Shue and Chloe Sevigny demonstrate their inability to act. Harrelson is really the only skilled actor in this film. He's in great form. Of course, in film noir, there are no "good" guys. But he's so hapless, we root for him in spite of his stupidity.

The plot is clever enough to keep us watching. It gets absurdly twisty in the last third, but I shamelessly hung in there for the final payoff--and it's a good one, rather self-satirizing.

South Florida (Anna Maria Island, Fort Myers, and Palmetto) looks appropriately steamy, and several palmetto bugs make cameo appearances (seriously).

I haven't read the book the film is based on, Just Another Sucker by James Hadley Chase, but after seeing Palmetto, I'd like to.
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