Romeo Is Bleeding

From the Chicago Reader (January 1, 1994). Whatever it is, “avant-garde cinema” it isn’t. — J.R.


This gory, postmodernist fruit salad may be the most misogynistic piece of noir since Body Heat, though as in Basic Instinct a certain amount of giddy dominatrix worship — in this case focused on Lena Olin as an evil mobster — gets mixed into the brew of producer Hilary Henkin’s script. It’s the sort of fancy-pants movie that can have a wealthy hoodlum (Roy Scheider) threatening its hero (Gary Oldman), a crooked cop on the take, by recounting an anecdote about Robert Lowell. As in The Grifters, another exercise in Hollywood noir directed by a non-American (here it’s the Hungarian Peter Medak, who works mostly in England), one can’t easily tell whether this is taking place in the 40s or half a century later; but with so many baroque plot moves and narrative devices, and so much self-consciously ornate dialogue and voice-over narration, you’re not supposed to notice or care. The film certainly held me, and even fooled me in spots (when it wasn’t simply confusing), but when the whole thing was over I felt pretty empty. It would be facile to say it substitutes style for content; actually, it substitutes stylishness for style. With Annabella Sciorra, Will Patton, Michael Wincott, and Dennis Farina. (JR)


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