Picks and Pans Review: Trouble in Mind

updated 03/24/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/24/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

At first you may not know what to make of this brilliantly bonkers mood piece, but hang in there. Writer-director Alan Rudolph, on a roll after the equally pungent Choose Me and Songwriter, sends out waves of giddy, charged-up romanticism that exert a tidal pull. Set in a surreal urban landscape called RainCity (the location was actually Seattle), the film follows an ex-cop, played by Kris Kristofferson, who has just been sprung after two years in the slammer. Kristofferson, never more life-battered or roguishly sexy, is the classic man alone. When he wanders into Wanda's Café, which is run by the sassy, man-hating Genevieve Bujold, he could be Jim Arness seeking refuge at Miss Kitty's or Bogie trying to heal his emotional wounds at Rick's Cafe in Casablanca. When Bujold rejects Kristofferson's pent-up passions, he turns to the luminous Lori Singer, who steals his heart and every scene she's in, as a doe-eyed innocent freshly arrived from the country with her husband and infant son. As the hick husband, Keith Carradine is both scary and flamboyantly funny. Corrupted by the city, where he eagerly embraces the underworld, Carradine starts affecting punk hairdos and wearing eye shadow that, by film's end, give him the look of a space creature—the weirdest of this weird lot. This is no small accomplishment, considering that Carradine's nemesis, a crime boss, is portrayed (in his first male role) by the female impersonator Divine. Playing a tough guy so nasty that "he made dice out of his mother's knucklebones," Divine emerges as jovially malevolent. If Rudolph sometimes comes un-glued along with his characters, his creation is nonetheless hot-blooded, haunting and howlingly comic. Besides top-notch performances, the movie boasts a seductive, other-worldly look, a dazzling Mark Isham score (with Marianne Faithful growling the classic blues title song and a Kristofferson original called El Gavilan) and dialogue that shames the purplest passages in Hammett and Chandler. Says the irresistibly loony Bujold to Kristofferson and Singer: "Between the two of you there's almost a whole person." Rudolph successfully mines such lines for laughs while trying to elicit a kinship with the oddballs in question. His picture is a strange brew and, on analysis, mostly moonshine. But Trouble in Mind packs moonshine's combustible kick. Proceed at your own risk. (R)

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