U Turn (1997) starring Sean Penn, Jennifer Lopez, Nick Nolte, Billy Bob Thornton, Powers Boothe, Jon Voight, Joaquin Phoenix, Claire Danes directed by Oliver Stone Movie Review

U Turn (1997)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Sean Penn as Bobby Cooper in U Turn (1997)

A Wrong Turn

There is no denying Oliver Stone's ability as a director, his collection of movies speak for themselves but even a top director can go wrong and unfortunately with "U Turn" Stone has gone wrong. Wrong maybe the wrong word because "U Turn" is a well put together movie, it takes a familiar storyline of a stranger stuck in an isolated town of quirky individuals and then saturates it with dark humour and style. The trouble is that it feels like Stone has used "U Turn" as a mixing pot for all those visual ideas he has had stored away and they end up dominating the movie with random camera angles, palette changes and characters who are comically quirky. And with the style dominating the movie the actual storyline, which is full of quirky double crosses ends up uninteresting to the point that it struggled to gain my attention let alone keep it.

Having had two fingers chopped off by a bookie who wants his money back, Bobby Cooper (Sean Penn - Carlito's Way) is heading across the desert to get as far away as possible. Unfortunately when his car suffers a problem he has to leave it in the hands of a back water garage run by the quirky Darrell (Billy Bob Thornton - On Deadly Ground). Having strolled in to the nearby town he meets other quirky characters from a blind Indian to an angry young man called TNT (Joaquin Phoenix). He also meets the sexy Grace (Jennifer Lopez - Anaconda) who takes him back to hers only for her husband Jake (Nick Nolte) to return home. And then things take a real strange turn as first Jake asks Bobby to kill Grace and then Grace asks him to kill Bobby.

Jennifer Lopez as Grace McKenna in U Turn (1997)

If you have seen "Twin Peaks" then in many ways "U Turn" is similar at least in having a remote setting and quirky characters and there is nothing wrong with that. And then there is equally nothing wrong in the dark comedy which follows as not only does Bobby get a couple of strange propositions but his encounters with the locals see him becoming increasingly battered and bruised as well as penniless. I am sure this is exactly as Oliver Stone hoped it would be, a dark comedy of twist, turns and double crosses which borders on the wrong side of peculiar.

But the trouble is that whilst it is not inferior film making it is so extreme in being quirky that the style and the quirkiness of characters dominates things. Now some people like erratic camera angles which flick from looking up from the floor too in close on a face, I don't mind them when they are not over used but unfortunately they are over used here. It is the same with the colourful characters because I enjoy quirky characters when their quirkiness is important but in this case it all seems to forced and extreme, as if Stone had been holding on to ideas and characters for a while and then just let everything out in this movie. It ends up dominating the movie to the point that it becomes a struggle to get engaged with Bobby's plight as he is stuck in the quirky town.

To make matters worse it is incredibly difficult to like any of the characters either because they are either stereotypes, such as the sheriff or too quirky such as Darrell. That doesn't mean the acting is inferior in fact every actor delivers a full on performance be it Nick Nolte as Jake or Powers Boothe as the Sheriff. But I will say again it is difficult to engage with any of these characters and that makes it incredibly difficult to get into.

What this all boils down to is that "U Turn" is a well made movie that is if you like an abundance of dark humour and quirky characters but it is a movie which is difficult to get into because of it being so full on quirky.