Reviewed by: Brian Nigro
As a rule of thumb, most movies directed by Oliver Stone will feature profanity, sex, nudity, and violence. Guaranteed. “JFK” and “Nixon”, for instance, easily clocked in at over a hundred profanities apiece. However, there was at least some socially redeeming value and a high degree of “moviemaking quality.”
Not so with “U-Turn,” one of the worst movies of the year. Sean Penn stars as a drifter who gets stranded in the death-valley town of Superior, Arizona. (Trivia: An actual city that actively cooperated with the film’s production.) That’s the initial premise, but there’s no coherent plot. One thread of story is about the Russian mob in Las Vegas. Another storyline concerns an insurance agent (Nick Nolte) and his seductive wife (Jennifer Lopez) who separately ask Penn to murder their spouses. Then, there’s a Native American POW (Jon VoightJohn Voight), who sits at a street-corner and spouts poor-man’s philosophy. None of this goes anywhere, and the general response will likely be, “Who cares?”
There are so many themes stacked into this two-hour movie like pancakes: adultery, incest, film noir from the 1940’s, paranoia, Native American philosophy, the Russian mob, small town American values, country music… the list goes on. Whoever wrote this screenplay should have picked one or two themes; no viewer should have to juggle all that information when it’s immaterial to the story. The film was shot on a variety of film stock, but so what? Low budget doesn’t have to mean low quality.
Surprisingly, there are some well-written—and clean—parts of “U-Turn” that are genuinely entertaining. Claire Danes is wonderful as a happy-go-lucky teen who picks up on Penn with lines like, “How come that Patsy Cline don’t make records no more?” Her match made in Hell, a protective James Dean type nicknamed TNT (Joaquin Phoenix), picks fights with Penn if he even looks at her. This would have been a great movie in itself, but alas, it goes nowhere fast, too.
“U-Turn” is significantly less offensive than, say, “Natural Born Killers”; but, that’s like comparing kitchen trashbags to a city landfill. It’s a middle of the road “R” rating for dozens of profanities (infrequent, not pervasive); extensive violence; a couple sex scenes with brief nudity; and recurring anti-Christian sentiment. Not too mention it’s not very entertaining and, at times, downright boring. Not recommended.