Jade (United States, 1995)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Jade is for cinematic anglers. There are a lot of fish inhabiting the murky, muddy waters of Joe Eszterhas' latest script, and, except for the occasional shark or two, most of them are herrings -- red herrings, to be precise. However, unlike a good mystery, where disparate plot elements are knitted together into a satisfying (if occasionally contrived) conclusion, Jade's loose ends unravel. The finale shamelessly cheats the audience, echoing that of another Eszterhas disaster: Sliver.

We've seen this story before -- many, many times. There's the sexy femme fatale, the hard- nosed husband, and the generally-likable investigative sort who's looking into the killing of a high-profile rich guy with important ties. This time, the actors aren't Sharon Stone and Michael Douglas; they're David Caruso (assistant DA David Corelli), Linda Fiorentino (psychiatrist Katrina Gavin), and Chazz Palminteri (Katrina's top-notch lawyer husband, Matt Gavin). These three get tangled together in a web of sex and murder that involves fertility masks, hidden video cameras, blackmail, a crooked governor (Richard Crenna), and all sorts of other predictable twists. (Ho-hum.) Ultimately, it's not hard to guess the guilty party's identity, and, even if you get it wrong, the manner in which the truth is revealed is likely to leave you asking "Who cares?"

The cast looks impressive, but none of these performers are likely to underline this film on their resumes. Caruso is as flat as a sheet of paper. This underplayed role definitely doesn't show off his screen presence. He has some, to be sure (check out Mad Dog and Glory), but it hasn't emerged since his well-publicized departure from TV's NYPD Blue. Chazz Palminteri, who can play just about any kind of role -- bad good guys and good bad guys -- isn't much of a standout, either, never seeming to find more than a caricature in his big-money lawyer character. And Linda Fiorentino just re-works her Last Seduction persona by adding a dose of humanity. When you do something as well as she did, typecasting is inevitable, I suppose. The relationship between these three, which is supposed to be a cornerstone of the film, isn't believable. Love, hatred, jealousy, and anger are portrayed with a lukewarm lack of passion.

Director William Friedkin has created a stylistic picture, but this is an example of style without substance. In The French Connection, Friedkin oversaw one of the great chase sequences in screen history. There's a chase scene in Jade, too, but it's far from the same class. Repetitious and tedious, this stretches for the better part of ten minutes and concludes with a highly-anticlimactic splash. Maybe if there had been an underwater camera at this point, we would have seen a few of those red herrings swimming around.

Eszterhas can take solace from his paycheck and the realization that this is actually an improvement on his last screenplay (the better-to-be-forgotten Showgirls), although not by much. Like the streets of San Francisco as portrayed in Jade, the quality of his work lately has been all downhill. There's not much right about this film, but at least it illustrates a valuable point: even a talented director and a promising cast can't redeem a moronic storyline.

Jade (United States, 1995)

Director: William Friedkin
Cast: David Caruso, Linda Fiorentino, Chazz Palminteri, Michael Biehn, Donna Murphy, Angie Everhart, Richard Crenna
Screenplay: Joe Eszterhas
Cinematography: Andrzej Bartkowiak
Music: James Horner
U.S. Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Run Time: 1:35
U.S. Release Date: 1995-10-13
MPAA Rating: "R" (Violence, Profanity, Sexual Situations, Nudity)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1