Mulholland Falls

1996, R, 107 min. Directed by Lee Tamahori. Starring Nick Nolte, Melanie Griffith, Chazz Palminteri, Michael Madsen, Chris Penn, Jennifer Connelly, Treat Williams, Daniel Baldwin, Andrew Mccarthy, John Malkovich, Bruce Dern.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., April 26, 1996

From the New Zealand director of the powerful Once Were Warriors comes this Nineties noir take on the brutal world of 1950s-era Los Angeles. Nolte is Hoover, the rough-and-tumble leader of the notorious “Hat Squad,” a group of four LAPD officers who make it their job to keep the Mob out of L.A. Granted special powers by the chief of police (i.e., the ability to toss suspects over the titular Mulholland Falls and generally ride roughshod over due process and the Bill of Rights), Nolte and his cohorts -- Palminteri, Madsen, and Penn -- are well known by most of L.A.'s underworld. When Hoover's former lover Allison Pond (Connelly) is found dead near a military proving ground, he makes it his personal raison d'être to find out what happened, even when the clues point to involvement by the head of the then-fledgling Atomic Energy Commission (A.E.C.). Tamahori has a brilliant cast to work with and his directing can't be faulted; nevertheless, Mulholland Falls feels like a cardboard cookie-cutter of a film, jammed to bursting with clichéd characters, situations, and dialogue. Much of this may be laid at the feet of screenwriter Pete Dexter, who apparently feels some bizarre duty to keep his backstory as ridiculous as possible. With Malkovich vamping it up as head of the A.E.C. and a goggle-eyed McCarthy running around in some sort of psychotic acting fugue, the film ends up a mockery of itself. Palminteri nearly saves the film single-handedly with his characterization of Coolidge, the one member of the Hat Squad with anything more than token originality, but it's not enough. Tamahori's second film (and his Hollywood debut, it should be noted) is a classic sophomore slump, all bark and very little bite.

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Mulholland Falls, Lee Tamahori, Nick Nolte, Melanie Griffith, Chazz Palminteri, Michael Madsen, Chris Penn, Jennifer Connelly, Treat Williams, Daniel Baldwin, Andrew Mccarthy, John Malkovich, Bruce Dern

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