"U-Turn is one hell of a film. Powerful and wildly entertaining."
Wandering into Stone territory can be an unnerving experience. Questions are raised. Is this going to be a turgid three hours of pure re-invention (a la Nixon) or a relentless roller-coaster ride of unprecedented, self-indulgent violence (a la Natural Born Killers or, for that matter, Platoon)? Even more anxiety-generating is the possibility that Stone is once more exorcising his trumped up political conspiracy theories against a Vietnamese hued background of sixties ideology (a la all his other films). But whether you regard Ollie as a genius or goat, for better or worse, he does generate friction.Thus it comes as a pleasant surprise to learn that with U-Turn he has abandoned much that has come to preoccupy the cloven one. In fact it is largely a black comedy staged under the blistering Arizona sun with, of course, more than its fair share of violence. Given that John Ridley (Fresh Prince of Bel Air) scripted might explain this lighter touch.
Bobby (played to perfection by Penn) is late for a Las Vegas meeting with his backers; lone-sharks whose only interest in Bobby is folding stuff. Just when he thinks he's out from behind, Bobby breaks a radiator hose in Superior, Arizona (actual location).
It's a no-horse dust-trap populated by pathological misfits whose jealousies conspire to keep him there. Whether it's the wily and inflation-prone mechanic Billy Bob Thornton, teenage lunatic Joaquin Phoenix or dog-eared Sheriff Boothe; his only hope lies with Grace (Lopez from Anaconda), wife of the most powerful man in town (Nolte). Either Bobby kills him and escapes with Grace or kills her and gets the money. Either way, it's a good case against car ownership.
There are few boundaries in U-Turn. Even surprises have surprises and this relentless crossing and double-crossing turns the pressure right up; from full to unbearable. Add to that a wide range of styles, patinas, jump-cuts and abstract inclusions, and you've got the perfect amalgam of art-house and commercial sensibilities. That which the Stoner does best.
Any sane actor would jump at the chance to work with Ollie and he has not been let down. Thornton is appropriately greasy while Nolte's villainous turn is a stand-out.Despite a final scene which is metaphorically, figuratively and literally over-the-top, U-Turn is one hell of a film. Powerful and wildly entertaining; for anyone's money this is Stone's best yet. ---Colin Fraser