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He's a small-time gambler with a backpack full of cash, an overdue debt in Vegas and a broken radiator hose. She's a hot-and-cold vixen caught in the grips of a twisted relationship with her powerfulhusband. Both of them just want to get out of town. And after you meet the citizens of Superior, Arizona, you'll understand why.
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Oliver Stone used such words as "liberating" and "fun" to talk about U Turn's relatively quick production schedule of 42 days. Stone's ideas of film fun, however, are something older generations would call sick. This film is a Southwestern noir tale about Bobby Cooper (Sean Penn), a hotshot who is stuck in the tight confines of Superior, Arizona, when his car breaks down. His subsequent adventure is a meatball comedy--loud, obnoxious, and violent, and stuffed with diffused light, a hot cast, and a no-fat Ennio Morricone score. This film has plenty of odd characters, but you never really find out much about them. Bobby's first encounters include a repulsive mechanic (Billy Bob Thornton under the grease) and a blind Indian (Jon Voight under the makeup). Then there's Grace McKenna (a sizzling Jennifer Lopez), who is as dangerous as the curves of her red sundress. Bobby's got time to kill, and Grace seems more than willing. Unfortunately, it seems that Bobby has never seen a movie such as A Touch of Evil; if he had, he would know it can only get worse. About the time Grace's husband, Jake (Nick Nolte), shows up, Bobby is knee-deep in murder plots and double-crosses.
The first 40 minutes or so are "fun" to a point. Penn is the perfect near-creep to root for, and as he wanders back into town after meeting Grace, the eclectic characters pile up. But soon it gets monotonous, tiring, and just plain ugly. And when incest and bloody fights begin, the fun is gone. If Penn weren't so solid an actor and able to be empathetic in the most morose situations, the movie would be unwatchable at stretches. Lopez makes another good impression, but this is not a performance that stands out. Nolte, raspy and ill-looking, is the Lee Marvin of the '90s. Before U Turn is over, you are already wondering if Oliver Stone will do something else, something more important, soon. --Doug Thomas
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