Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Nick Nolte, Melanie Griffith, Chazz Palminteri, Michael Madsen, Chris Penn, Treat Williams Jennifer Connelly, Andrew McCarthy, John Malkovich
Director: Lee Tamahori
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1, Full Screen 1.33:1
Studio: MGM
Features: See Review
Length: 107 Minutes
Release Date: November 2, 2004

"You guys can't do this. This is America."

"This isn't America, Jack. This is L.A."

Film ***

The look and feel of film noir has never felt more alive than in Mulholland Falls. Though the film is nowhere near the level of L.A. Confidential or Chinatown, it is very much an exceptional piece of retro filmmaking. Truth be told, had Chinatown never existed, there could never have been a Mulholland Falls.

As in the plot of Roman Polanski's film, the mystery of Mulholland Falls involves a murder, whose entire purpose is to cover up something even bigger. Instead of a lone private eye, there's a group of cops known as the Hat Squad, who are on the case. The squad is made up of four tough looking guys who each don fedora hats and dispense their own brand of justice for the L.A. police department.

The squad is led by Hoover (Nick Nolte), whose reliable cohorts are Coolidge (Chazz Palminteri), Hal (Michael Madsen) and Relyea (Chris Penn). To get a hint of what kind of methods these guys enforce, the opening of the movie has them whisking away a Chicago gangster from a restaurant to a special area on Mulholland drive, where they throw out the trash, hence the Falls in the title. Their primary duty is to keep any element of organized crime out of Los Angeles.

The latest case assigned to them involves the mysterious death of a young aspiring actress, whose body is discovered at a construction site. The beauty's name is Allison Pond (Jennifer Connelly). Hoover is stunned to discover the identity of the murdered girl, because he knew her quite well.

The woman's dead body looks as if it was thrown out of a plane, since her figure has been completely pressed into the earth. Soon, a possible link is discovered between the woman's death and that of atomic bomb testing. Various clues lead Hoover all the way to one of the inventors of the A bomb, General Timms (John Malkovich), who saw Allison on the last weekend she was alive.

But Hoover is still haunted by the woman's death. The main reason being that he was in love with her for a six month period, only to leave her because of the fact that he was married to Katherine (Melanie Griffith), whom he came to love even more. Once learning of her death, he feels responsible in a way because he suspects she would've given up seeing other guys if he stayed with her.

In the end, Mulholland Falls adds up to a glorious exercise in film noir recreation. The all star cast is nothing short of fantastic. My favorite performance in the movie is surprisingly that of Chazz Palminteri, whose character provides most of the humor through his constant complaints of going to see a psychiatrist as a result from the stress his job has on him. Treat Williams also turns in a strong performance as a suspicious army colonel who doesn't want the police interfering with their territory.

Video ***1/2

MGM boasts quite a superb looking disc. The fact that they resorted to the double sided format had me scratching my head, but the picture ended up being near brilliant. The anamorphic picture (full screen is also included) makes terrific enhancing of the breathtaking atmosphere the movie provides. Colors are wonderfully natural, and though a dark scene or two may not turn out as strong as other shots, the overall presentation is still a memorable one.

Audio ***

The 5.1 mix on this disc provides strong sounding presence in many moments in the film. There is momentary action in the film, a couple of shootouts as well as a climatic duel on board an airplane, each of which make for some powerfully sounding moments. Dialogue delivery is nicely heard, and retro score by David Grusin sounds nothing short of terrific.

Features *

Only a trailer.


Mulholland Falls is a purely underrated 90s piece that does a commanding job of creating the perfect film noir atmosphere. That, along with a top flight cast make this a trip back to 50s L.A. that is very much worth taking.

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