New Age philosophies and old-fashioned romance bump heads in “Santa Fe,” the movie. The setting is perfect, but the film is a muddled pastiche of ideas and themes that fails to coalesce into a meaningful drama. Lacking the bite of its convictions, pic faces grim theatrical prospects but could be an OK TV attraction thanks to a generally appealing cast.
Cop Paul Thomas (Gary Cole) emerges a hero from eight months in hospital and rehab. He managed to save a handful of people — including his wife and daughter — from the bloody finale of a fringe cult homesteading in Wyoming, in the process taking a couple of bullets from an anxious SWAT sniper. But he’s less than conquering to wife Leah (Sheila Kelley), who’s taken up with a healer in their home town of Santa Fe, N.M.
Hoping to pick up the pieces of his life, Paul faces a review board for reinstatement on the police force. He also agrees to participate in a counseling retreat (at his wife’s urging), where he takes an immediate dislike to group leader Eleanor Braddock (Lolita Davidovich). His phobia of charismatic types is so intense, he begins a school program to warn kids of the danger of cults.
Script by Mark Medoff and director Andrew Shea then abruptly segues into romantic comedy. Paul’s dislike of Eleanor melts when the two are coincidentally brought together by the personals. He struggles not to lump her in with other gurus as the relationship grows, and wards off the fanatical warnings of cult deprogrammer Dr. Ginsberg (Phyllis Frelich). Seesawing over just how seriously to take Paul’s plight, pic opts for the easy dramatic out.
Contributing to considerable narrative clutter are protag’s basketball program for inner city kids, his sister Nancy’s (Pamela Reed) fight to recall the mayor (Medoff) for industrializing the area, and the difficulties he encounters as a separated father in raising young, precocious Crystal (Tina Majorino).
Tech credits are uniformly smooth, and the ensemble cast, especially leads Cole, Davidovich and Majorino, are effective enough. Co-writer Medoff has one of the better supporting roles as the seemingly benign but thoroughly manipulative mayor. But Frelich is reduced to mugging and vamping as Cole’s overzealous shrink.