Too much surface. Director Lee (The Edge
) Tomahori's noir story serves as a McGuffin to its ripe style. Amid secret agendas and unspeakable acts onscreen you stare at the fall of light across old cops' desks. Musing on super-8 footage of naked Jennifer Connelly, your mind wanders. Ah, yes, an allusion to the opening shots of Chinatown
. Roman Polanski's grand reinvocation of the dark intuitions of 1940s noir is there, too, in the sumptuous look, the plump list of stars (Nick Nolte, Michael Madsen, Melanie Griffith, John Malkovich), and the swoony, bittersweet soundtrack. The zigzags of the story that bring together two cheating husbands, one pneumatic babe, and (somehow) homosexuality waywardly recall The Big Sleep
. The Atomic Energy Commission subplot feels like an homage to Kiss Me Deadly
. With so many other movies to please, by the middle of the film it's clear that the story isn't going to thicken, that for all the amperage in Nolte's performance, for all the male rage in Michael Madsen and Chazz Palminteri, the hints of sexual malfeasance aren't going much past Nolte's domestic guilt about his affair with Connelly. And yet there are rich things. Tracing a path from his girlfriend to the head of the Commission (Malkovich), Nolte listens, hat in hand, to a purring existential science lecture about the invisible world of atoms. "Yeah," Nolte growls, "well, I see too much." Would that the filmmakers had let us
see more. --Lyall Bush
In the brutal war against murder and corruption, there's one place where the battles are won. Nick Nolte, Melanie Griffith, Chazz Palminteri, Michael Madsen, Chris Penn, Treat Williams, Jennifer Connelly, Andrew McCarthy and John Malkovich star in Mulholland Falls, a brilliant, high-powered crime thriller electrified by hard-hitting action, forbidden passion and shocking intrigue. In 1950s Los Angeles, Max Hoover (Nolte) leads an elite squad of four detectives who play by their own rules, dealing with criminals the only way they know howwith deadly force. But when they investigate the murder of a beautiful young woman (Connelly), the detectives find themselves embroiled in a high-level conspiracy and faced with a terrifying secret that the US government is determined to keep hiddenat any price.