×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Rafelson’s ‘Wine’ a Vintage Noir

Alex Jack Nicholson

Alex Jack Nicholson

Jason Stephen Dorff

Gabriella Jennifer Lopez

Suzanne Judy Davis

Victor Michael Caine

Henry Harold Perrineau Jr.

Back on terra firma after the misstep of “Man Trouble,” Bob Rafelson and Jack Nicholson team for the seventh time in “Blood and Wine,” an amusingly caustic, straight-up serving of film noir staples spiced with star charisma. Despite some kinks in the climactic stretch, this old-fashioned story remains a sleekly packaged entertainment. Genre pics of this type rarely strike commercial gold, but this one could muster decent mid-range business.

Rafelson has stated he regards the film as the conclusion of an informal trilogy about dysfunctional families that began with “Five Easy Pieces” and continued with “The King of Marvin Gardens.” Nicholson has played, respectively, son, brother and father in the three pics. While this latest study is a far less nuanced, more conventional entry, it nonetheless fits as a darkly cynical take on the fragility of both the family unit and the American dream.

Nicholson plays Alex Gates, a wine dealer to the wealthy denizens of the Florida Keys. His taste for luxury and extramarital philandering has consumed his profits and the finances of his embittered wife, Suzanne (Judy Davis), and distanced his stepson, Jason (Stephen Dorff).

Angling to get on easy street, Alex plots to steal a client’s diamond necklace, bringing in ace safecracker Victor (Michael Caine) as his partner. Alex’s lover, Gabriella (Jennifer Lopez), is the client’s comely Cuban nanny, who is to aid, unwittingly, in the robbery; despite her abrupt dismissal, the theft goes as planned.

But things come unglued when Alex attempts to leave for New York to sell the rocks and Suzanne steps in to stop what she believes is another routine weekend of infidelity.

In a stunning explosion of violence (the first of several in the pic), harsh words turn to hard blows as Suzanne takes to Alex with a hefty walking stick. She leaves the bludgeoned Alex out cold on the tiles, hightailing it from Miami to Key Largo with Jason, who has begun making moves on Gabriella., unaware of his stepfather’s connection to her.

Alex and Victor easily track down the runaways, and their sudden appearance causes mother and son to bolt in a car chase that is by far the thriller’s best action set piece, ending in a car crash. The sequence culminates in a potent, disturbing scene in which Alex weeps over his injured wife while pawing her body and combing the wrecked car for the jewels. The accident leaves everyone attempting to get the upper hand in an eventful series of double-crosses and reshuffled allegiances. But Gabriella’s lack of more concrete definition, along with an overblown crescendo of bone-crunching violence, contributes to a slight slackening of narrative tautness in the closing act.

What drives the material and makes it compelling are the sharp, often playful characterizations, rather than the familiar plot machinations by scripters Nick Villiers and Alison Cross (working with a story by Rafelson and Villiers). Nicholson and Caine, in particular, are enormously enjoyable.

While Nicholson sports a little too much of the evil glint in his eye that has grown progressively more maniacal from “The Shining” on through “Wolf,” he can do the odious but curiously sympathetic cad like no one else. Reaching for a cigarette even after coughing up blood, Caine milks the caricature of the thuggish, morally bankrupt Brit slob for all it’s worth.

Davis is memorable in her too-few scenes as a boozy, emotionally bruised woman with a reserve of strength that makes her boil instead of break. More than holding his own in his many face-offs with Nicholson, Dorff follows his head-turning stint as Candy Darling in “I Shot Andy Warhol” with equally strong work here.

Juggling Gabriella’s smoldering and soulful sides, Lopez also delivers, but her character veers awkwardly between the cliches of an ambitious Latina spitfire and a basically honest immigrant anxious to carve out a better life.

Providing able backup to Rafelson’s slickly tooled direction are Newton Thomas Sigel’s limber but unobtrusive camerawork and production designer Richard Sylbert’s understated use of the warm colors characteristic of Florida architecture.

Rafelson's 'Wine' a Vintage Noir

Production: BLOOD AND WINE (BRITISH) A Fox Searchlight release of a RecordedPictures Co. presentation, in association with Majestic Films/Fox Searchlight, of a Recorded Pictures Co. production. (International sales: Majestic Films, London.) Produced by Jeremy Thomas. Executive producers, Chris Auty, Bernie Williams. Co-producers, Hercules Bellville, Noah Golden. Directed by Bob Rafelson. Screenplay, Nick Villiers, Alison Cross, based on a screen story by Villiers, Rafelson.

Crew: Camera (Deluxe color), Newton Thomas Sigel; editor, Steven Cohen; music, Michael Lorenc; production design, Richard Sylbert; art direction, William Kemper Wright; costume design, Lindy Hemming; sound (Dolby Digital), Peter Devlin; associate producers, Kathleen Courtney, Terry Miller; assistant director, Miller; casting, Dianne Crittenden. Reviewed at San Sebastian Film Festival (competing), Sept. 21, 1996. Running time: 98 MIN.

More Film

  • How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes

    How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes Sports and Showbiz in an Entertaining Mix

    Walking through the El Segundo studio where veteran sportscaster Rich Eisen tapes his daily “Rich Eisen Show,” the sheer density of sports memorabilia is overwhelming — everything from game balls to jerseys, gear, autographs and uncountable photos are crammed onto every inch of wall and desk space. But step into Eisen’s dressing room, and the [...]

  • Yorgos Lanthimos

    Film News Roundup: 'The Favourite' Director Yorgos Lanthimos Boards Crime Drama

    In today’s film news roundup, Yorgos Lanthimos has set up a crime drama, “Here Lies Daniel Tate” is being adapted, and Donna Langley becomes a member of the USC film school board. DIRECTOR HIRED “The Favourite” producer-director Yorgos Lanthimos has signed on to write and direct crime drama “Pop. 1280,” an adaptation of Jim Thompson’s [...]

  • Brody Stevens Dead

    Comedian Brody Stevens Dies at 48

    Prominent Los Angeles comedian Brody Stevens died Friday in Los Angeles, Variety has confirmed. He was 48. “Brody was an inspiring voice who was a friend to many in the comedy community,” Stevens’ reps said in a statement. “He pushed creative boundaries and his passion for his work and his love of baseball were contagious. [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business

    Hollywood Agents Blast Writers Guild Over New Proposals

    The war between the Writers Guild of America and Hollywood agents has escalated as the two sides battle over the rules on how writers are represented. The latest volley emerged Friday from Karen Stuart, executive director of the Association of Talent Agents, who accused WGA leaders of misleading its members and asserted that the guild [...]

  • Xavier Legrand Custody

    Cesar Awards: Xavier Legrand’s ‘Custody’ Wins Best Film

    Xavier Legrand’s feature debut “Custody,” a tense portrait of a family torn by domestic violence, won best film, actress (for Lea Drucker), and original screenplay at the 44th Cesar Awards, which took place at the Salle Pleyel in Paris. The awards are France’s highest film honors. “Custody,” which marks Legrand’s follow up to his Oscar-nominated [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    'Crazy Rich Asians,' 'Late Show With Stephen Colbert' Win Publicity Campaign Awards

    Hollywood publicists have selected “Crazy Rich Asians” as the top movie publicity campaign for 2018 and “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” as the best television campaign. Warner Bros.’ “Crazy Rich Asians” topped the campaigns for Disney’s “Black Panther,” Fox’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Paramount’s “A Quiet Place,” Sony’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” and Universal’s “Halloween” for [...]

  • Tessa Thompson Nnamdi Asomugha

    Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha to Star in 'Sylvie'

    Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha are set to star in the feature film “Sylvie.” Eugene Ashe has written the screenplay and will direct with production currently underway. The film is described as a love story set in the cool jazz era of New York City in the late 1950’s/early 1960’s. Sylvie (played by Thompson) meets aspiring [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content