×
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.

Popular on Variety

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

  • Lee Byung-hun stars in "The Man

    Lee Byung-hun’s ‘Man Standing Next’ Secures 2020 Asia Theatrical Releases (EXCLUSIVE)

    Showbox’s political drama “The Man Standing Next” has secured releases in multiple territories in Asia. The film was picked up by Falcon for Indonesia, The Klockworx for Japan, Viva Communications for the Philippines, Shaw Renters for Singapore and by Moviecloud for Taiwan. Release dates in each territory have yet to be confirmed. Set 40 days [...]

  • Lulu Wang and Zhao Shuzhen'The Farewell'

    Zhao Shuzhen on Stealing Scenes in Her First American Movie, 'The Farewell'

    A year ago, 76-year-old actor Zhao Shuzhen shot her first American movie, “The Farewell,” based on writer-director Lulu Wang’s very personal family story. In November, Shuzhen found herself making her first visit to the States, where she earned standing ovations from audiences and posed for pictures with stars like Robert Pattinson at parties. Then she [...]

  • Jennifer Lopez and Director Lorene Scafaria

    'Hustlers' DP Todd Banhazl Discusses How Not to Shoot With the Male Gaze

    Cinematographer Todd Banhazl had to rethink conventional wisdom in shooting Jennifer Lopez starrer “Hustlers.” What sort of approach did you and director Lorene Scafaria discuss in terms of how you were going to shoot the women and create these strong images of strippers? From the beginning, we talked about this idea of control and the [...]

  • A Hidden Life Movie

    Film News Roundup: Terrence Malick's 'A Hidden Life' Screened at Vatican Film Library

    In today’s film news roundup, “A Hidden Life” is shown at the Vatican, “Limerence” finds a home, Dave Baustista’s “My Spy” moves, and the DGA honors two veteran members. VATICAN SCREENING Terrence Malick’s “A Hidden Life” received a rare private screening at the Vatican Film Library this week. The movie centers on Austrian farmer and [...]

  • Wet Season

    'Wet Season' Star Yeo Yann Yann on the Need for Quality Chinese-Language Films

    Malaysia’s Yeo Yann Yann wiped away tears that weren’t purely of joyous triumph just minutes after receiving the 2019 Golden Horse Award for best actress in Singaporean director Anthony Chen’s “Wet Season.” The film plays in the New Chinese Cinema section of this week’s International Film Festival & Awards (IFFAM). Emotion welled up as she [...]

  • Wolf Totem

    Juben Productions Stretches From Peter Chan to Chinese Zombies

    Beijing Juben Productions has taken over rights to the popular “Wolf Totem” novel from China Film Group and is working on a sequel to be delivered in 2021 or Chinese New Year 2022. It also has a zombie film up its sleeve, as well as a British co-production about Shakespeare and a Chinese drama with [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content