Picks and Pans Review: Revenge

updated 02/26/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/26/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

Kevin Costner, Anthony Quinn

Not since the 1964 Phillies has there been such a catastrophic finish.

The first half of this film, about a just-retired Air Force pilot who falls in love with the young wife of a Mexican godfather type, is terrific—intense, sexy, full of emotional and physical heat.

Costner and Madeleine (The Wager) Stowe paw each other with convincing ardor, despite having to pay homage to that fixation of screenwriters, standing-up sex. Quinn, as Stowe's husband, is magnificent. The aging cuckold is no new role, but he oozes stubbornness, pride and an odd sense of honor. This may be his best performance since A Dream of Kings.

Director Tony (Top Gun) Scott, however, disposes of both Quinn and Stowe for most of the film's last hour. The big fight that takes place midway is a peak the movie plunges off, into increasing dreariness.

As Costner wanders around with little happening, you start to notice how hazy a lot of scenes are for no apparent purpose. You realize that writers Jim Harrison and Jeffrey Fiskin, adapting Harrison's novella, give people stilted lines like "I can't see you being a lapdog for some Mexican kingpin." You notice that Sally Kirkland and James (Major League) Gammon do fine acting in dumb situations.

At the end (not to divulge too much) a character dies a drawn-out death, while Jack Nitzsche's background music suggests a 5-year-old playing scales on the piano. What the character dies of isn't explained, but since said person spends the last half of the movie fervently clutching a sort of necklace, it may be that the death is due to a rare, fatal case of hand cramp. (R)

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