The fascination with the homicidal urge and the inability to recognize it in ourselves and others provides the chilling core of this road movie. Though somewhat overplayed and coy about its destination, the film packs a wallop.
After completing an assignment on a serial killer, magazine writer Brian Kessler (David Duchovny) decides his research on similar psychos would make a nifty coffee-table book. He concocts a cross-country tour of nefarious murder sites to collect info that will be augmented by photos shot by girlfriend Carrie Laughlin (Michelle Forbes). Early Grace (Brad Pitt), meanwhile, happens upon Brian’s rideshare ad on a bulletin board at the university where he works as a janitor.
The film [from a screen story by Stephen Levy and Tim Metcalfe] cross-cuts between the relatively mundane lives of the yuppish Pittsburgh couple and scenes of Early with his significant other, the bedraggled, naive Adele Corners (Juliette Lewis), portraying a white-trash trailer-park life in which fragile circumstances tend to erupt into unpleasant consequences.
The charismatic Pitt explores his character with quiet resolve, venting both horror and darkly comic implications. Duchovny is strong in a thankless part, and Forbes is a unique presence in her major-role screen debut. But Lewis steals the show with an affectless performance that registers pity, pathos and pluck.
[A 118-min. unrated version was subsequently issued on a laserdisc.]