A touching and pungent contemporary noir by the same basic team that yielded Nobody’s Foolwriter-director Robert Benton, cowriter Richard Russo (this time with an original script rather than an adaptation of his own novel), and septuagenarian actor Paul Newman, glowering with underplayed intensity. Though this movie is as much about aging as the late westerns of Howard Hawks (and evokes in particular the wizened melancholy humor of El Dorado), it also forms a kind of dialectic with Nobody’s Fool by focusing on upper-class ties in LA (as opposed to working-class ties in a small town in New York), as well as offering an extended gloss on the novels of Raymond Chandler. Playing a former cop and retired private detective who now occupies the garage apartment of his best friends (Gene Hackman and Susan Sarandon), both former movie stars, Newman gets sucked into a mystery that ultimately tests his various loyalties as well as his own identity. The remainder of the stellar castespecially James Garner, Stockard Channing, Giancarlo Esposito, and Reese Witherspoonplays a significant role in the process. Sturdily constructed and gracefully written, this is a movie that shines. (JR)

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