Review by Gordon Justesen
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
Features: See Review
Length: 107 Minutes
Release Date: November 2, 2004
guys can't do this. This is America."
isn't America, Jack. This is L.A."
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Only a trailer.
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.