Opened: October 13, 1995 | Rated: R
"Jade" is the kind of thriller that quickens the pulse without taxing the nerves.
It's not terribly tense, it's not overly gory and doesn't take any risks, but "Jade" is deceptively complex. It is an engrossing and very film noir mystery with one foot in the present and the other strongly planted in film tradition.
From the opening foggy-night-in San Francisco shots to the closing that deliberately leaves several questions unanswered, it borrows heavily from the noir days of dark detective stories without losing its 1990s erotic edge.
"Jade" is an incestuous murder mystery in which every character is deeply involved and everyone knows it.
In the course of investigating the brutal death of a San Francisco socialite, assistant district attorney David Corelli (David Caruso, "Kiss of Death") finds illicit connections to his ex-lover and her husband (Linda Fiorentino and Chazz Palminteri), who is also an old college buddy.
Obviously this opens some old wounds for the Corelli, but he's a little busy to fight his inner demons since in short order he finds other society folk, a hooker, another cop and even the governor could be connected to the killing.
Screen writer Joe Eszterhas ("Basic Instinct," "Showgirls") has recently been churning out only million-dollar smut, but "Jade" reflects what he can do when he puts his mind to it.
This is a smart whodunnit with twists and turns, and actual clues if you're paying attention -- and this from the writer of "Sliver," which had so little continuity that the murderer was changed after the original ending bombed with test audiences.
"Jade" does go south in a few places. In the obligatory San Francisco car chase the stunts are more laughable than impressive and in one sex scene for some inexplicable reason Linda Fiorentino wears a stocking over her head, eliciting a distracting chortle from the audience.
But those few moments are easily overshadowed by the performances of a great cast. Caruso plays his detective close to his chest, but as his investigation leads him to secrets he probably shouldn't know about his friends, he becomes almost a sympathetic character.
Fiorentino's grown-up sensuality (which won her praise for "The Last Seduction") makes other thirtysomething screen sirens look like high school girls, and the versitile Chazz Palminteri (who was likewise recognized for "Bullets Over Broadway") really sinks his teeth into his role as a intimidating defense attorney.
It's the engaging attention to detail that makes "Jade" work. The anger, the fear and the passion of the characters all feel genuine. The film has a muted and grungy feel that almost looks black and white (a nod to its roots). And the script not only holds together better than most contemporary thrillers, it engages the intellect of the audience -- a minor miracle in today's lowest common denominator Hollywood.
This review appeared in the Daily Republic, Fairfield, CA.
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