Before sinking into a plotline as thick as jambalaya, Phil Joanou’s Heaven’s Prisoners stirs up enough spice to suggest what drew Alec Baldwin to James Lee Burke’s novel in the first place. However rudderless and convoluted this Cajun crime mystery becomes, picture at the very least offers Baldwin one of his juicier roles.
Baldwin plays Dave Robicheaux, a former cop who gave up police work and booze to live the quiet life of a bait shop owner with loving wife Annie (Kelly Lynch). That life is changed forever when Dave and Annie watch a small plane crash into the Gulf and save a little Salvadoran girl (Samantha Lagpacan).
As he gets thicker and thicker into the city’s criminal mire, Dave encounters more than his share of colorful, dangerous characters. Topping the list is Bubba Rocque (Eric Roberts) an old high school buddy and now a mid-level drug lord. Teri Hatcher, television’s Lois Lane, keeps pace with Roberts as his femme fatale wife. Mary Stuart Masterson, nearly unrecognizable as a torch-carrying stripper who guides Dave through the criminal underbelly, does better with her cliche role than should be expected.
Heaven’s Prisoners has the feel of a re-edited movie, all stops and starts, bursts of activity amid stretches of brooding. Film would have been better served with some streamlining in the script stage. Too many bad guys and blind alleys spoil this Cajun stew. [In the UK and some other territories, pic was released in a 132-min. version.]