It’s the Bronx in the early 60s and a psychotic man named Heinz (John Turturro) is released from jail and immediately starts stalking the girl he tried to rape (Jodie Foster), which landed him in prison in the first place. Upon hearing about his release, the son of a cop turned pacifist/activist is enlisted as protection despite his hesitancy and desire to move to Mississippi to support the Black communities’ struggles there.
Along the way we spend a great deal of time with a pair of flighty girls who get high on glue and find themselves romancing a pair of young pranksters. The tale of these individuals has no ties to the main plot and only the strangest character connections at the very end…but even then their relevance is confounding.
The script was written by John Patrick Stanley, who also penned Moonstruck, which was released that same year. The script ping-pongs back and forth between dark intensity and downright wacky, sometimes within seconds of each other, such is the case for a scene where Heinz steals penguins to impress his former/future victim then slaughters one in front of her upon rejection of his gift. Such a strange story makes it a perfect cult film for acting students who love Stanley’s plays and need interesting scenes to present in class. There is a plethora of moments that allow a young Turturro, Foster and Tim Robbins to either chew the scenery believably or just whip out snappy bits of unnatural but clever dialogue.
With all of the fun the script is having, it often forgets how to tell a story properly, and we are sometimes left in the dark as to why we should care about what we are seeing or have any sense of where it is going. Now, one could say the same thing about a good number of David Lynch or Terry Gilliam films, but this is not a film experiment, it is supposed to be a cohesive, albeit strange, tale of some young tenants in a small part of the Bronx over the course of a couple of days.
Widescreen 1.78:1. The picture looks like a straight transfer from VHS without any ‘enhancing’ done whatsoever. The age is quite noticeable in the footage when it should not be. The film is only 23 years old but has the condition of an unpopular Italian horror film from the 60s that was reluctantly placed onto a bargain bin DVD boxset. There also is a recurring, queasy shaking of the frame that is very noticeable when it is in closeup of an actor’s face and makes it look all the more sloppy.
2.0 Stereo in English and French. Like the video quality, the audio is showing its age more than it should but has fewer problems. Nothing much seems to have been done to prepare it for DVD.
If you’ve just watched Vampire’s Kiss and are craving another eccentric bit of dark almost-comedy…this one will serve you well. Otherwise, you might need some patience before the action REALLY picks up at the climax and have to sit through that strange side-story of teens having relationship issues.