Michael Douglas, Robert Duvall, Barbara Hershey, Tuesday Weld

Refreshingly unusual and provocative if hardly unique, this exercise in urbanite catharsis evokes the 1968 Burt Lancaster film The Swimmer as well as Charles Bronson's 1974 Death Wish.

But in this case, instead of trying to dog-paddle or shoot his way out of his societal angst, Douglas, as a hopelessly frustrated ex-aerospace industry worker, tries to walk and shoot his way out of Los Angeles after abandoning his car in the middle of a summer morning traffic jam. En route he gets in a few figurative and literal shots at predatory youths, unpleasant ex-wives, right-wing crazies, convenience-store clerks and the general anomie of big city life.

The casting is bizarre. It's hard to watch the film without thinking that Duvall, who plays the about-to-retire cop pursuing Douglas, would have portrayed the central character's wrung-out world-weariness with more impact than the reflexively posing and attitudinizing Douglas. Hershey, as Douglas's fed-up, unforgiving wife, is too big a personality for her role, while Weld, as Duvall's shrewish spouse, seems constricted in her small part.

Director Joel Schumacher and writer Ebbe Roe Smith never lake the movie very far beyond the level of bare vindictiveness. There are no insights into urban life other than to decry the obvious, such as drive-by shootings and blatant sexism. And the notion of his leaving his car in the middle of a highway, thereby adding to everyone else's woes, hardly makes Douglas a sympathetic character. Audiences will want him to succumb to the urban threats rather than triumph over them. (R)

Lara Flynn Bolye. Timothy Hutton. Faye Dunaway, Dwight Schultz

Like most films in the current killer beauty craze, this grindingly silly, predictable subthriller assumes that not only most of its characters but most of its audience members are cretinously dumb, credulous and naive.

No one, for instance, seems to notice that Boyle, as a temporary worker in a food conglomerate's head office, is preternaturally energetic and ambitious for someone with limited status. And her immediate boss, Hutton, takes an eternity to see how insidiously Boyle is invading his life, down to tampering with his tenuous relationship with his estranged wife, Maura Tierney.

Director Tom Holland has little to offer outside self-consciously bizarre camera angles, and screenwriter Kevin Falls burdens his script with vapid aphorisms: "Success is like hot air—it rises."

Boyle, while Convincingly seductive and malicious as a woman determined to murder her way to the top, never shows even a hint of subtlety. She wears her heartlessness on her sleeve as the food company's middle management goes into crisis, with young executives dying mysteriously. Dunaway, often seeming to be satirizing the hyperaggressive woman executive role she all but defined in Network, is an effective harpy as Hutton's domineering boss, while the versatile Schultz yuppies it up as the company's would-be president.

The callow-seeming Hutton makes an ideal victim for this kind of movie, vulnerable but not helpless. His predicament is so contrived, though, that there is little suspense. (R)

Christian Slater, Marisa Tomei

Thank you, all concerned, for trying to make a sweet, affecting little movie about young people—just your ordinary, working-class, insufficiently shampooed young people—transformed by love. We need movies like that. We really do. But the farther along one goes with this romance about a diner waitress (Tomei) and an enigmatic busboy (Slater), the more it seems to have abandoned real life—specifically, Minneapolis—altogether. Slater and Tomei might as well loosen their apron strings and take to the sky on winged horses...exchange goblets filled with wine...soar past waterfalls and over green hills toward a burning sun.

My imagery here was inspired by Fantasia's schlocky "Pastoral Symphony" episode, which includes a little cupid thrusting forth a soft pink derriere shaped like a heart. "Heart" is very much the issue here: Slater's is defective, and not likely to last the movie. Also, he is painfully shy, and sensitive, and often mute. This is because he grew up, frail and lonely, in an orphanage, where a certain Mother Camilla would soothe him by playing an album of piano music that sounds like Chopin sloshed on cough syrup.

What we have here, then, is a young man who is a combination of Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mowgli the jungle boy. Get this: Slater thinks the heart is the actual seat of human emotion, which is why he's reluctant to get a heart transplant! Or this: He catches the puck, in triumphant slow-mo, at the first hockey game he ever attends. It is fascinating to watch Slater, a likable enough actor, trying to pretend he has never watched hockey. He narrows his already small eyes in amazement, as if the Ark of the Covenant had just been rolled out onto the ice. Tomei, such a kick as a gum-chewing moll in My Cousin Vinny, seems to be doing an uncanny Rosanna Arquette impersonation. Meanwhile, back on our planet, the blessedly down-to-earth Rosie Perez plays another waitress in the diner. Untamed Heart is recommended for inordinately sensitive teenagers everywhere. (PG-13)

Michelle Pfeiffer, Dennis Haysbert

This small Valentine of a movie almost didn't open, which would have been a big fat shame. Love Field, a romance between a white woman and a black man set in 1963, languished on the shelf for more than a year, a victim of the financial collapse of Orion Pictures, which has since emerged from bankruptcy.

Pfeiffer plays a Dallas housewife so obsessed with the Kennedys—"I have the pattern to that same suit," she confides to a fellow onlooker as Jackie steps off the plane at Dallas's Love Field airport on the morning of Nov. 22—that she feels duty-bound to attend JFK's funeral in Washington. On her way there she begins chatting up a fellow bus passenger, a black man (Haysbert) traveling with his young daughter.

"It'll be a hard Thanksgiving," she tells him. "[Kennedy] did a lot for the Negro." "Right," he says, with gentle condescension. Later, he offers her his copy of Look magazine, noting, "It's got lots of pictures."

Love Field does not whack at its points with a sledgehammer. Rather, Jonathan Kaplan's restrained direction and Don Roos's intelligent script carefully etch the growing relationship between Pfeiffer's and Haysbert's characters with quietly telling scenes and gentle humor. Haysbert registers strongly here. It's Pfeiffer's picture, though, a star turn in a movie that is actually worthy of one. (PG-13)

  • Contributors:
  • Ralph Novak,
  • Tom Gliatto,
  • Leah Rozen.