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Mulholland Falls

movie review out of 4 Movie Review: Mulholland Falls

Starring: Nick Nolte, Chazz Palminteri
Director: Lee Tamahori
Rated: R
RunTime: 107 Minutes
Release Date: April 1996
Genres: Drama, Suspense

*Also starring: Rob Lowe, Michael Madsen, John Malkovich, Chris Penn, Treat Williams, Melanie Griffith, Andrew McCarthy, Kyle Chandler, Daniel Baldwin

Review by Steve Rhodes
1 star out of 4

MULHOLLAND FALLS is a cop show set in LA during the 50s. It is about an independent team of four LA cops, Maxwell Hooper (Nick Nolte), Elroy Coolidge (Chazz Palminteri), Eddie Hall (Michael Madsen), and a fourth cop played by Chris Penn. These cops form a quasi-vigilante force to keep the town clean, and they answer only to the Commissioner so that they can do whatever they want like kill and beat up the bad guys without having to bother with any messy paperwork. The Commissioner is played by Bruce Dern who is made up to look old and senile.

In the opening scene, a Mafia mobster named Jack has come to town so the four cops take him to Mulholland Falls. Jack realizes that LA has no falls, and they are going to push him over the edge of the mountain to try to kill him. He tells them they can't do that because "this is America." Lieutenant Hooper replies, "This isn't America Jack. This is LA." They then push him down the mountain. From the first snappy dialog by Peter Dexter, you know this movie is in major trouble. The cliched music (Dave Gruso) of loud, thumping, staccato piano notes is a another clue that it is not going to be a pleasant time at the picture show.

The four cops ride around in a great looking black Buick Roadmaster convertible from the mid-50s. They all wear large hats in the car and in most other scenes as well. Since these four musketeers are all extremely large men with broad shoulders, they fill the car almost to overflowing. Every scene with them driving around in the car is a lot of fun albeit totally ridiculous; they look like a bunch of cartoon characters. The movie can be humorous at times and the small talk they make among themselves about how they always sit in the same spots is cute.

Oh, I forgot to warn you. You are required to check your brain at the theater entrance. There are so many parts of the story that either make no sense, are ridiculous, or are telegraphed in advance like neon signs that you will go crazy if you try to think about what you are seeing. The reality gaps range from the small to the large. For example, have you ever tried talking in a normal voice from the front seat to the back without turning around. Not too hard, you say. Well, how about in a convertible driving across a desert going 60 miles an hour? Does wind noise allow you to hear anything? Ever worn a hat in the back seat of a convertible for long distances at high speeds? Did the hat blow a little bit? In this movie, we have no wind, no noise, and all hats stay nicely in place without any movement whatsoever. I'll get to the big errors later.

Since it is the 50s, you probably have already guessed that our government is up to some sinister plot. It seems that a girl played by Jennifer Connelley has turned up dead. She has a link to General Timms (John Malkovich) who is the head of the Atomic Energy Commission. The general is the inventor of the atomic bomb and lives in a mansion close to the testing site in a desert near LA. General Timms propounds such sentiments as "A hundred die so that a thousand may live."

The girl also has a link to Max. In a truly awful performance, Melanie Griffith plays Max's wife Catherine who gets drawn into the link as well. Griffith looks terrible in the movie. So sad, she could once light up the screen, see, for example, WORKING GIRL.

Now on to some of the larger preposterous parts of the film. Lets say it is the 50s and every one is scared to death of the A-bomb. Do you want to break in and drive around on the proving ground where they test the bomb? If so, do you want to pick up and put in your pocket what clearly appears to be radioactive material? Do you believe that cops in full view of others will kill bad guys with the bad guys' drugs? Do you believe that the cops would go after the FBI and beat them up over a turf battle? Do you think police will slug people in their eyes when they are wearing eyeglasses. I could go on and on with these.

For the worse acting award in this movie, Griffith actually loses although she does come in third place. In first place is Andrew McCarthy playing a scumball by the name of Jimmy Fields. His acting grates on your nerves it is so pathetic. In a close second is Treat Williams as Colonel Fitzpatrick and the second in command to the general. He is totally unbelievable. His last scene in the picture comes way too late.

Nolte vacillates between a withdrawn and sad look and an angry and violent one. He is an uneven actor that needs a good director with a strong hand to keep him under control. The weakest part of the team of this movie was the director, Lee Tamahori. He had a talented cast that was horribly misdirected.

The are some good parts to the movie other than the funny car scenes. When our heroes stare down into a gigantic hole carved out by an atomic bomb, it is funny. Bruce Dern gives an off-the-wall performance as a police commissioner who should have retired years earlier. He hates these "little ivy league types" from the FBI who come in and try to tell him what to do in his town.

There is other good acting as well. Chazz Palminteri is given the best part and does a good job with it. John Malkovich is given a terrible role that is poorly written and yet manages to make it interesting to watch nevertheless. That he could do anything with it is a minor miracle.

MULHOLLAND FALLS runs 1:40, and it drags a lot. It is rated R for major amounts of totally gratuitous blood and gore - from horribly disfigured bodies with radiation poisoning to faces and guts blown about. There is also some sex and nudity. I would only let quite mature teenagers see the film, but I do not recommend this show to anyone. For some of the laughs and for a few good performances in an otherwise awful movie, I give the film a single *.

Copyright 1995 Steve Rhodes

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