Picks and Pans Review: Mortal Thoughts
As compact and focused a suspense thriller as you're likely to see, this is a classic who-did-what-to-whom crime movie that will keep you guessing up to the last minute.
Actually, it will keep you guessing even after the last minute, since a couple of crucial questions are left unanswered, to no apparent purpose. But up to then, Moore and Headly, directed by Alan (The Moderns) Rudolph with fewer quirks than usual and ably bolstered by Bruce Willis and Harvey Keitel, embroil themselves in a thoroughly absorbing tale.
Moore and Headly are partners in a Bayonne, N.J., beauty shop. Headly is married to the brutish Willis, who abuses her physically and emotionally and never works—unless you can consider emptying the beauty shop's cash register work.
Make that was married. Most of the movie is told in flashback as Moore sits at a police-station table being interviewed by homicide detective Keitel about the circumstances of Willis's death.
Headly's motivation for choosing Willis in the first place, let alone staying with him, is never convincing. But he sure sells the abusive part; he is ugly and so coarse that you can almost smell his foul breath.
Moore and Headly are effective too, juggling the long-standing affection between them with the tension generated by Willis's increasingly repugnant behavior and then his death. At one point after the killing, Moore counsels Headly, "Nobody's gonna get caught. You have to look optimistic. Grieving, but optimistic."
John (Talk Radio) Pankow imbues his role as Moore's initially sympathetic husband with an intriguingly limited devotion. And Rudolph stages the police-station scenes cleverly too, contrasting the surroundings' banality with the mortal matters under discussion. The Keitel-Moore exchanges are models of telling dialogue.
When an incredulous Keitel asks her if she didn't take the squabbles between Willis and Headly seriously, for instance, Moore answers indignantly, "I watch The Honeymooners. I don't take that seriously."
The film was written by Claude Kerven and William Reilly. While they and Rudolph should have lost the busywork twist at the end, they do succeed roundly at their main objective—not only do they make you wonder who did it, they make you hope that whoever it is won't get caught. (R)
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