Destiny Turns On the Radio
1995, R, 102 min. Directed by Jack Baran. Starring James LeGros, Dylan McDermott, Quentin Tarantino, Nancy Travis, James Belushi, Bobcat Goldthwait, Tracey Walter.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., May 5, 1995
Very strange stuff indeed. Baran's Sundance-nurtured “mystical love story” is a bizarre cross-pollination of genres that puts one in mind of Alex Cox's early work (Repo Man springs to mind, and not only because Tracey Walter is in both films). It's the kind of film critics like to call “quirky,” and mainstream audiences generally stay away from in droves. That's too bad, because Destiny Turns on the Radio is a charming bit of genuine weirdness: one-third love story, one-third heist drama, and one-third Quentin Tarrantino ascending nude from a glowing motel swimming pool (!). McDermott is Julian Goddard, a prison escapee who shows up at former partner Harry Thoreau's (LeGros) fleatrap motel in search of $50,000 from a job three years ago. Also, he's looking for his former main squeeze, Lucille (Travis), who now works as a chanteuse/embittered love slave for sleazy casino proprietor Tuerto (Belushi, somewhat miscast here). Into this heady mix of intrigue and passion walks (drives, actually) Johnny Destiny (Tarrantino), a slick-talking enigma of a man who may or may not be destiny personified. Baran and company keep the action going and the audience twitching via approximately a billion little subplots, but the action never gets too confusing to follow. Some of these subplots include Lucille's coming audition for music exec Vinnie Vidivici (Allen Garfield), Julian's tangles with both the cops and Tuerto's goons, the sudden appearance of Julian's dad (Walter), ad infinitum. Obviously, screenwriters Robert Ramsey and Matthew Stone spent some time on this script. A new-age, screwball, gangster comedy for the End Times, Destiny Turns on the Radio may not linger in the mind for as long as some other films featuring the perpetually startling Tarrantino, but it's certain to inspire some odd after-movie, espresso-fueled conversations.