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Kalifornia

Rated R, 117 min. Directed by Dominic Sena. Starring Brad Pitt, Juliette Lewis, David Duchovny, Michelle Forbes.

REVIEWED By Pamela Bruce, Fri., Sept. 10, 1993

Hillbilly white trash squalor collides head-on with the urban artsy, always-dressed-in-black set in this moderately suspenseful crime drama that bears a slightly suspicious resemblance to Terrence Malick's 1973 film Badlands (complete with an irritating and unnecessary narration by one of the characters). Brad (Duchovny) is a serial killer buff working on a true crime book who lives with his girlfriend Carrie (Forbes), a photographer and Robert Mapplethorpe wannabe who just can't seem to sell her portfolio of erotica to any gallery. In desperate need of inspiration for his book, along with her desperate need to move to potentially greener pastures in California, Brad and Carrie decide to take a cross-country journey in which they will visit historic murder sites and document them in photographs. There's just one hitch, though. They need someone to help with expenses and driving for the trip, so Brad posts an ad on a bulletin board at a local college. As fate would have it, a scuzzy parolee named Early (Pitt) -- a cold-hearted killer in the guise of a backwoods good ol' boy who murders at random -- answers the ad. But, before departing the low-life comforts of a cramped trailer house situated in a junkyard with his sweet, dumber-than-a-butternut-squash child-woman girlfriend, Adel (Lewis) in tow, Early has some bridges to burn, so to speak, with their disgruntled landlord. After the messy landlord business is taken care of with a knife and some gasoline, Early and Adel team up with a culture-shocked Brad and Carrie, who weren't expecting the Beverly Hillbillies to be their traveling partners, but are at a loss to accept them because no one else answered the ad. Brad's initial reaction to Early and Adel soon dissolves into friendliness, while Carrie remains uneasy and suspicious toward the pair -- especially Early -- as the trip slowly descends into a cross-country odyssey through hell. Although the narrative seems a bit familiar and heavily drags itself out in the last third of the film, the best thing this film has going for it are the outstanding performances of Pitt and Lewis as a sort of white trash Romeo and Juliet cum Henry Lee and Becky. Pitt is especially believable, so much so that he eerily captures the sociopathic persona of a real-life killer from a true-crime book: the thin, easy-going veneer that masks an evil sense of an absent conscience. See this film, and I'm sure that you'll think twice about ever placing an ad for a driver on a long road trip.
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