Two brothers compete for the hand of Nicollette Sheridan in a lurid melodrama that’s oddly appealing thanks to a witty script by Joyce Eliason. While “Shadows of Desire” is by no means a comedy, it’s amusing in a way that’s not detrimental to those who enjoy it strictly for its dramatic thrust.
Story begins when Rowena Eklund (Sheridan) returns to her hometown for her mother’s funeral, after a long absence. “Her husband was in prison,” sniffs the town busybody (Piper Laurie). Jude Snow (Adrian Pasdar), who harbors a crush on Rowena, defends her: “He’s not her husband anymore.””That’s worse,” mom retorts. “She’s divorced.”
There’s no satisfying mom, especially Jude. Injured as a youth by a hunting accident, he stays home and minds the family store, while glamorous older brother Sonny has moved to Las Vegas where he’s making deals. Jude takes up with Rowena, much to mom’s displeasure. Things are working out well for the pair — he gets to see her tattoo — when a red convertible pulls into town. Yup, Sonny’s back. And he’s smoking a cigarette, so you know he’s trouble.
Sonny, who had a fling with Rowena in high school, wants her back, even if it hurts his little brother. In the meantime, Sonny’s big deals in Vegas have resulted in some fellows chasing him around the country and wanting their $ 60, 000.
Jude becomes the goat in all this, scraping up the money for his brother and taking the blame for some of Sonny’s actions. When he’s finally had enough (about 20 minutes after the audience is probably demanding Sonny’s blood), he asks, “What am I, the village idiot?”
Pasdar nevertheless creates some sympathy in what would have been the Woody Harrelson role, pre-“Natural Born Killers,” with Joe Lando hugely charismatic as bad brother Sonny. Laurie bites enormous chunks of the scenery as the boys’ mother, and Richard Roundtree appears, briefly, as the Eklund family retainer.
Eliason’s script and Sam Pillsbury’s direction are helped considerably by small-town Texas locations and supporting cast of unfamiliar faces.