Wednesday, February 24, 2021

U-Turn (1997)


It's scary how many years have slipped by since we came across this film slightly serendipitously in the Beckton multiplex, on one of our all you can eat cinematic outings.

Roger Ebert was not impressed at the time > "Only Oliver Stone knows what he was trying to accomplish by making U-Turn, and it is a secret he doesn't share with the audience. This is a repetitive, pointless exercise in genre filmmaking — the kind of movie where you distract yourself by making a list of the sources."

Yes, it is a sort of greatest hits compilation tape, but time has shown that it is an extraordinary assemblage of parts in another sense too, for even Stone probably had no intimation of the unlikely marquee cast he had hired for his B movie, including the likes of Claire Danes and Joaquin Phoenix, but specifically Jennifer Lopez in pre-J Lo mode. (There's even a non speaking part for Liv Tyler as 'Girl In Bus Station').

1997 is right on the tipping point for mobile phones as plot devices, at least in American movies. Sean Penn makes several uses of a coin-operated public phone but the obvious lack of celulares doesn't feel like an absurdity as it did in Speed 2: Cruise Control, released the same year. 

Also in cinemas back in 1997 was Jennifer Lopez’s  breakthrough flick, Selena, which permitted her to cross over in slightly phantasmal fashion on the back of the late chicana singer's earlier Grammy success. (A film directed by Gregory Nava of El Norte fame.) 

But when we saw U-Turn for the first time — and we loved it then as we do now — J Lo's on screen persona was undeniably powerful, yet very different to what it would become in the noughties.  

Prior to this we'd only ever seen her on TV as one of the backing dancers on In Living Color, with the likes of another future megastar, Jim Carrey. 

In U-Turn she plays the femme fatale, a 'half breed', with possibly Navajo or Apache maternal parenthood. John Voight also shows up here as a Native American vet in a manner that possibly wouldn't get past the planning stages these days. Puerto Rico has the most genetically diverse population on earth, an unparalleled mix of African, Amerindian and European roots, and I doubt anyone could honestly say, based on this appearance, that Lopez had no business playing an Arizona indigene. 

I find I had forgotten some of the detail, having recalled more of the situation — dust bowl Superior as an inescapable maze — than the play-out of the noirish murder plot, and now discover that it is still the former elements of Stone's movie that I enjoy the most. 


norm said...

Puerto Rico has the most genetically diverse population on earth, an unparalleled mix of African, Amerindian and European roots
I knew a family from Puerto Rico who had 13 children, the kids' features went from looking English to African and all shades in-between.

Inner Diablog said...

I can well imagine...