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Never Talk To Strangers

video review out of 4 Movie Review: Never Talk To Strangers

Starring: Rebecca DeMornay, Antonio Banderas
Director: Peter Hall
Rated: R
RunTime: 86 Minutes
Release Date: October 1995
Genres: Action, Erotica, Suspense

*Also starring: Dennis Miller, Len Cariou, Harry Dean Stanton, Beau Starr, Tim Kelleher, Eugene Lipinski

Review by Steve Rhodes
½ star out of 4

NEVER TALK TO STRANGERS is one of the least subtle motion pictures this year. Although most people could figure out the origin of the title, when Dr. Sarah Taylor (Rebecca De Mornay) meets Tony Ramirez (Antonio Banderas), she admonishes him, "Mr. Ramirez, my mother taught me never to talk to strangers." To which he retorts, "If you never talk to strangers, you'll never meet anyone new." The movie is filled with such tautological "wisdom."

Dr. Taylor is a psychiatrist who specializes in criminals with multiple personalities. Woven in the body of the show is a series of interviews she is having with a serial rapist played by Harry Dean Stanton who may be crazy or may be faking it. Stanton plays his usual role as a creep. His performance is the same as he has given in a dozen other movies.

The romantic part of the movie is Dr. Talyor's affair with Tony who is a mysterious stranger and ex-cop although why he is no longer a cop is one of the movie's chief conundrums. Given the title, you could probably write a lot of the script yourself. Yes, Dr. Talyor does get in serious danger with someone stalking her, and yes, Tony may or may not be doing it. On the other hand there is the ever present neighbor Cliff (Dennis Miller) who is another candidate for the stalker. Her dad is yet another as certainly is Stanton or one of his friends. Then, again, maybe I missed a few possibilities.

Hands down, the worst part of the movie is the music. Every scene is so overscored you think a nuclear holocaust is about to ensue. Every action from dropping a jar of tomato sauce to a cat moving on a ledge has violins screeching and horns blaring to warn the audience that this is serious stuff and something awful may happen because of this minor incident. The movie was not previewed to the local movie critics which is always a bad sign that the studio has lost faith in its product and knows that the critics will pan it. My guess is that the audience test screenings were terrible and the music score was added and the music volume pumped up before the show's release as a way to make up for the poor directing by Peter Hall, mediocre acting by the cast, and a ridiculous script by Lewis Green and Jordan Rush.

On the good side, Banderas will probably make a lot of the women go wild. Tony is naked from the waist up in a lot of the scenes and his clothing is all dramatic shades of black which nicely compliments his black pony tail and his arms filled with jet black tattoos a la Hell's Angels. He tries what might charitably be called innovative sex with Dr. Taylor. It doesn't work. Dr. Taylor, on the other hand, is dressed prim and proper with serious reading glasses that she glares over when interviewing her patients. Give me back that De Mornay from RISKY BUSINESS since she was great then.

Ah, that script. So many lines to take home and ponder. The serial rapist enlightens us with, "The Buddhist have a saying. If you meet your master on the road, kill him." The worst part of the script is how it plays with the audience's emotions. As far as I am concerned, the lowest a writer can stoop is to have a script where small animals or children are killed just for effect. These writers commit one of those sins.

Another problem with the show is the implausibility of so many of the scenes. If a killer was stalking you and you got a ransom style letter in your mail at work telling you to read a certain section of the newspaper, would you wait all day long to get around to looking at the newspaper? If someone was threatening you and you came home to find your apartment dark and the door forced open, what would you do? Would you: a) call the police from somewhere outside the apartment, b) go get a neighbor to go in with you, or c) go in by yourself and take a long bath? For every one of you that picked c, you have a lucrative career in front of you as a Hollywood screenwriter. Go place your order that for that new Mercedes now.

The cinematography, especially the glow of the city lights at night is lovely. The movie is set in New York City but filmed in Toronto and Budapest.

Compared to the ending, the rest of the movie is great. The ending is one of the most ridiculous and off the wall ones I have seen in a long time. If you are thinking about walking out on this show, do yourself a favor and do it before the ending. You don't want to know.

NEVER TALK TO STRANGERS runs on and on, but I think it only last about 1:30. It feels longer. It is rated R for male and female nudity, sex, and gory violence. It would be acceptable only for mature teenagers. On the other hand, I recommend this show to no one; people of all ages should avoid it. I give it 1/2 of a star since I have seen worse.

Copyright 1995 Steve Rhodes

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