Mulholland Falls - * 1/2*

Slow moving and directionless noir thriller. Nick Nolte is Detective Max Hoover, head of the Hat Squad (a fact based group of LA detectives formed in the ’50s to fight organized crime). When the Squad (also including Chazz Palminteri, Michael Madsen, and Chris Penn) begin to investigate the unusual murder of a mysterious woman (Jennifer Connelly), they uncover secrets some people would prefer left uncovered (notably the head of the Atomic Energy Commission, played by John Malkovich). To complicate matters, Hoover recently had an affair with the woman…a secret he’s managed to keep from his devoted wife (Melanie Griffith). Unfortunately, Nolte does a bungled job of acting. His blank expressionless face never reveals his true feelings toward either his lover or his wife. But at least Hoover is better developed than his compatriots. Only Chazz Palminteri is gifted with the slightest of character quirks (he visits a shrink). Poor Madsen and Penn are virtually extras in hats. The story, for all its noirish content, is surprisingly free of pesky plot twists. From the outset, the film is completely straightforward, with little doubt as to who the bad guys are. With no strong characters, and a plot that leaves little to ponder, you would at least hope for some good action sequences. What a surprise, zero for three. About the only thing worth seeing in this film is the cinematography, which captures some good shots in noir fashion…but, they only serve to remind how good this film should have been.

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