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Search and Destroy

movie review out of 4 Movie Review: Search and Destroy

Starring: Griffin Dunne, Illeana Douglas
Director: David Salle
Rated: R
RunTime: 91 Minutes
Release Date: May 1995
Genre: Comedy

Review by Steve Rhodes
1 star out of 4

When you read the title SEARCH AND DESTROY, you immediately thought it was another vehicle for either Jean Claude Van Damme or Charles Bronson to show off their ability to slaughter hordes of bad guys. Right? Wrong. This is a musical starring Christopher Walken as a song and dance man.

Okay, so I lied, but only partially. This movie does feature a song and dance routine by Christopher Walken, and although it is a black comedy with a plot, the plot's meaning is so obscure that characterizing the show as a musical for its single musical number, is as good a characterization as any.

In the movie, Martin Mirkhein (Griffin Dunne) is a small time operator and loser married to Lauren Mirkhein (Rosanna Arquette). He listens to the motivational pitches made on late night cable TV by Dr. Waxling (Dennis Hopper) and loves Dr. Waxling's adventure novel featuring a character called Martin Strong who reveals the four inner secrets of life. His secrets include don't apologize since what apologize for is what you really want. Another is that just because you do something that doesn't mean it's interesting. Dr. Waxling's speaking into the camera is such a parody that it is clearly the best part of the movie. Too bad the scene only lasts a minute or two.

Martin Mirkhein decides that the way to make some serious money and to get his $100,000+ overdue Florida taxes paid right away as advised by his accountant (Martin Scorsese - also the executive producer) is to make a movie of Dr. Waxling's book. Roger (Ethan Hawke), Dr. Waxling's bodyguard, will not let Mirkhein see Dr. Waxling so Mirkhein makes a play for Marie Davenport (Illeana Douglas) the doctor's assistant in order to get to see the doctor. This is not easy since Mirkhein, like Martin Strong, practices sexual abstinence to show his strength of character. Later Mirkhein seeks the aid of some shady characters called Kim Ulander (Christopher Walken) and Ron (John Turturro) to make money to impress the doctor.

First time director David Salle seems to think he is going to be the next Fellini. Salle populates his movie with tons of quirky characters like Fellini. Salle's, however, are about as believable and interesting as cardboard figures. The audience in the art house I went to set through the entire movie in stunned silence. Nobody moved. We all stared at the screen in amazement. What was this all about we seemed to all be thinking. When the credits started, everyone, except me, quickly stood up and left immediately (and without saying a word).

The script by Michael Almereyda, based on a play by Howard Korder, has the sole virtue of being extremely bizarre. The writing and the directing had all of the actors acting like free agents from different movies who all happened to be captured by the camera together. There was no chemistry or believability among them. I must admit, on the other hand, I never considered leaving early. I developed sort of a morbid fascination of where the show was going and how it would end. By the way, it goes nowhere and the ending is the worst part - gratuitous violence.

I am a fan of every one of the actors mentioned above. I even like Dunne and Arquette who have been in one bad movie after another. I felt sad seeing all the actors in this show. I kept thinking of all of the times I had enjoyed their work. I absolutely loved Ethan Hawke, for example, in the recent BEFORE SUNRISE - which is a show you must see if you have not done so already, but here he was given a worthless part with pathetic dialog. What a waste!

Copyright 1995 Steve Rhodes

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