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Blood and Wine

Blood and Wine movie still

Director: Bob Rafelson
Screenwriter: Nick Villiers, Bob Rafelson
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Michael Caine, Stephen Dorff, Judy Davis, Jennifer Lopez
Release details: Fox Searchlight, USA 1997, 98mins
Full details: IMDb
Genre: Drama
Rating: 7 out of 10

Arguably, two of Jack Nicholson's best early films were Easy Rider and Five Easy Pieces, both of which were for director Bob Rafelson, who would become Nicholson's long-time friend and associate. This film marked their sixth collaboration and continues their joint exploration of flawed heroes and dysfunctional families.

Jack is at his laconic best as Alex Gates, an unsuccessful wine merchant, one-time crook and unfaithful husband. His embittered wife (Davis) is perilously close to a breakdown, his business is failing, a fact not helped by having to employ his resentful stepson, Jason (Dorff), and the creditors are closing in.

With his best friend, Victor (Caine), and his mistress, Gabriella (an early part for the ego known as J-Lo), he robs the home of one of his wealthy customers to steal a small fortune in jewellery. This is the point where it all starts to go wrong for Alex, as his wife leaves him, unwittingly taking the stolen jewels with her. To divulge any more would be to give too much away but, suffice to say, it doesn't end well.

Rafaelson has assembled a fine cast and coaxed top quality performances out of all of them. Yes, even Stephen Dorff shows that, when he has something better to do than look pretty, he's more than up to the task. Caine benefits from the relatively showy part of Victor, the terminally-ill safecracker, and the script gives him the opportunity to show he's lost none of that controlled rage he portrayed so well in Get Carter. But, ultimately, the acting plaudits go to Davis who never strikes a false note and delivers her venomous attacks on Alex with just the right amount of self-loathing.

This is a thoughtful, intelligent approach to the old cinematic staple of the heist gone wrong. The twists are not obvious, the characters and their development ring true throughout.

Ultimately what keeps this film from being unmissable, as opposed to merely interesting, is the pacing by Rafaelson. He spends so long lingering on nuances and glances and the scenery that the first half of the film sidles along at an almost crawl, before all the action gets packed into the last half-hour. By the time the action kicks in, you feel curiously uninvolved with the characters.

Caine's performance won him Best Actor [Silver Seashell] at the 1996 San Sebastian Film Festival.

The stats

UK release date -
US release date -
UK box office £165,324
US box office $1,075,288
Worldwide box office -
UK certificate 12
US MPAA rating PG-13

Sources: IMDb, Box Office Mojo, BFI, BBFC, MPAA

External Reviews

It takes its plot seriously, and doesn't try to deflect possible criticism by hedging its bets by pretending there is an ironic subtext... Roger Ebert

Blood and Wine has rare, isolated bursts of energy, but, for the most part, it comes down to fist fights, predictable betrayals, and car chases... Reel Views

Links

For Jack Nicholson fan sites, try the Open Directory.

The ego known as J-Lo controls her own website at jenniferlopez.com. Or, you can read one man's view on why she is evil incarnate.

Stephen Dorff: official sites for City of Industry and Deuces Wild. Alternatively, fan sites are listed here. Mostly geocities/angelfire-type sites run by little girls who can't spell.


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