Picks and Pans Review: The Locusts

updated 10/20/1997 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/20/1997 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Kate Capshaw, Jeremy Davies, Vince Vaughn, Ashley Judd, Paul Rudd

English-lit teachers are going to love The Locusts. It stinks with symbolism, providing grist for a week's worth of lectures. Take the movie's attractive, 40ish widow (Capshaw), who owns a dusty cattle feedlot in rural Kansas. Named Delilah, she's as fond of shears as her biblical namesake, only she uses them to castrate the bulls on her ranch and, metaphorically, her now dead husband (a suicide) and emotionally fragile son (Davies). Into her spider's web (yep, we see that image onscreen too) trots a handsome stranger (Vaughn), a sweaty stud muffin given to wearing grungy undershirts. She gives him a job and invites him into her bed, an offer he declines. Revenge will be hers.

As overwritten and overdirected by first-time filmmaker John Patrick Kelley, this feverish melodrama plays like bad Tennessee Williams crossed with bad William Inge, and not just because the movie is set during the early '60s. All the actors, a good group, are in there pitching, but only Judd, playing a refreshingly uncoy sexpot, comes off with her dignity fully intact. (R)

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