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
Copyright © 1995 Steve Rhodes