It's an odd movie with great style.
"Mulholland Falls" is a piece of vintage perfection. Set in the 50s, it is soaked in the feel of that freewheeling period, when the country was an unpoliced frontier during the short, euphoric transition between war and prosperity.
Arrogance infected the air. The Atomic Energy Commission exploded nuclear weapons with no regard for local residents; organized crime controlled cities with little resistance from the police. The FBI regarded the entire country as its preserve, and no one talked about human rights.
These wildly disparate elements come neatly together in "Mulholland Falls," an eccentric detective story alive with the atmosphere of its time. In a stunningly stylized opener, Maxwell Hoover (Nick Nolte) and his gang of three rogue cops march into a restaurant, kidnap an out-of-state crime boss, drive him up Mulholland Drive, and throw him over a cliff. That'll teach organized crime to stay out of Los Angeles. Unrelated to the plot, the scene is a quick brush stroke, a prologue to introduce us to the operating methods of our heroes.
Max and his group discover the body of a woman, Allison Pond (Jennifer Connelly), embedded in the desert with radioactive glass in her foot. After Max's very personal reaction to her death, we are not surprised when a porn film surfaces starring Allison and a string of lovers. Featured prominently are Max himself and AEC General Thomas Timms, who divided his time between Allison and his nuclear testing site.
The search for the murderer is the obvious focus of the film, but the cops steal the show from its own plot. Max Hoover is a warped cop, an angry, violent man who goes home to Kate (Melanie Griffith), a wife who lies about, reading Hemingway, while waiting to take Max to bed.
Nick Nolte gives Max an intriguing streak of honor that surfaces whenever he's with either of the women he loves. Chazz Palminteri makes Max's sidekick Ellery a full-blown, lovable, loyal oddball who evokes ridicule from his colleagues because he is in therapy, looking for the root of his rage. Max and Ellery and their two curiously undefined buddies go about their nasty business wearing white neckties, blackjacks, and leg holsters, stopping just short of Capone spats.
Along the way we meet the police chief (Bruce Dern), who sees the FBI as a bunch of "pathetic Ivy Leaguers," and an arrogant FBI man, who sees the LAPD as "alley cops." Treat Williams is good as the essence of the military mind whose end justifies the means, and John Malkovich gives a predictably creepy twist to the general.
Melanie Griffith is surprisingly good in a small but strong role as a mid-century woman who could influence nothing. She is admirably restrained in conveying her heartbreak with expression rather than words. A terrific cast and production crew have taken great pains to get the period right. It's an odd movie with great style.
Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 494
Studio : MGM
Rating : R
Running Time: 1h47m
Copyright (c) Illusion
Return to Ellis Home Page