Stone wants to hit us with the ugliness of everything, but this whole machine amounts to low surface pulp. It is a vehicle that should enjoy its lowness. He de-saturates the enjoyable elements; the brutal exercise in craft is empty; the fun is gone. Because the director has made a Film, not a movie, you can't savor his seedy noir – a crucial mistake, because the structure is pulp. And I like Stone.
Before, when he churned out lurid and cartoonish screenplays (Midnight Express, Scarface, The Hand, and Conan The Barbarian my favorites), he was a big kid happy to show off his toys: primitive pulp objects; knick-knacks jigged to the rhythms of rock & roll and coke -- funny, vulgar, and moral, but starkly so. He was a self-knowing hack. Now he is self-glorified, panged with liberal guilt. Oscar® made him soft. Maybe he always was.
U Turn sucks because it refuses to engage us in the kitchen sink it goes out of its way to throw. Even the darkest Jim Thompson novel has heart, has humor. This film, which is in Thompson country, has neither. As a pervy, toothless auto mechanic on the outskirts of town, Billy Bob Thornton makes us laugh (by a hair), but that can only mean Stone forgot momentarily the picture he was directing.
Were he more superficial, he might actually seem smart.
2010-05-26 - Jack Cormack