Director: Oliver Stone | 125 minutes | drama, crime, thriller | Actors: Sean Penn, Jennifer Lopez, Nick Nolte, Billy Bob Thornton, Powers Boothe, Joaquin Phoenix, Claire Danes, Jon Voight
No wasted time, this parody of thrillers, road movies and smalltown America. Based on a screenplay by John Ridley – an adaptation of his novel ‘Stray Dogs’, which is also the original title of this film – Oliver Stone brought together a land-based cast that are all convincingly doing their thing. Take a seat for it: Sean Penn as anti-hero, Jennifer Lopez as femme fatale, Nick Nolte as angry (step) father, Billy Bob Thornton as village idiot, Powers Boothe as corrupt sheriff, Joaquin Phoenix as hick, Claire Danes as female equivalent and Jon Voight as an Indian beggar. It is not overkill, because everyone knows their place.
It is to the great credit of Stone and his people that he makes a film with class without a major theme. Especially the camerawork, which even spans from a 35mm television: hallucinatory images when disaster strikes; facial shots from below and into the sun: film noir …
But ‘U Turn’ doesn’t fit in any box. As a regular thriller, this film is actually unsaleable. Because everything revolves around bad luck – maybe a little too much – even the end of the film is sacrificed to that. Stone actually puts you on the wrong track. Road movie, laugh-or-I-shoot, parody and thriller elements are constantly intermingled; if you then think that it ends as a thriller, you will still be disappointed.
Grace and Jake’s complicated story might have deserved a little more attention, but that must not have been Stone’s intention. ‘U Turn’ is a stylish humor sandwich in between hot drama meals. Nevertheless, the dramatic characters in this film are convincingly portrayed by Lopez and Nolte; There can be laughter about the teenage couple Phoenix and Danes and an admiring chuckle for car mechanic Thornton, who only has to come into the picture, whether he is in his underpants or with swimming goggles on radiator hoses. Sean Penn is the centipede of this movie: romantic hero, villain, loser, crybaby, fighter boss and arrogant townsman. En passant, Stone briefly highlights the American fascination with family and race. And those with cars. “It’s a ’64 ½ Mustang!”,