U Turn (1997)
Sean Penn vs. the American people of Superior, AZ, 7 June 2014
"U Turn" is of the neo-noir crime genre completely infused with several varieties of humor. It boasts a very good screenplay and subtle script. The direction by Oliver Stone doesnít miss a beat. He got great performances out of an excellent cast. The filmís images look great and the story is well-paced. The design of the run down western town is perfect for the story.
While the story, acting and setting are highly engaging and entertaining, the filmís themes and sub-text slyly and mercilessly tear apart American stereotypes. While "U Turn" is not "Blazing Saddles", it still delivers serious blows to goody-goody images and myths about America using the neo-noir genre as a delivery system. There isnít one character in the movie, not one, who isnít up to no good or who hasnít some serious flaws or failings that turn American myths upside down. The movie delivers tremendous sarcasm and irony at every turn.
Chasing money, the importance of money, and the links between money and the American Dream are shown in all their hollowness. In this movie, sex is everywhere a basis for twisting people out of shape and for using people. American manlihood is shown to be a fake front, as in the blustering character played by Joaquin Phoenix. The female sex has no scruples, men are victims of females and their own sex drives, and gentlemanly behavior toward females is wasted effort. No one delivers a genuine service with a smile, neither a waitress not a mechanic. We see the opposite as in the case of Billy Bob Thorntonís exploitative mechanic role. The local beggar (Jon Voight) tells lies, playing upon sympathy to veterans and Indians. Sean Pennís dream becomes simply to escape from this town and its nightmare, but he and Jennifer Lopez have dreams of California, Hawaii, and flying. In this movie, dreams fall apart on something as simple as a radiator hose that fails. American violence crops up all over the place. A convenience store is a site for armed robbery and two killings. Nick Nolte is a real estate agent who is halfway insane and hates loving Jennifer Lopez, who is cheating with Powers Boothe, the sheriff. At one point, his arrest of a Russian thug satirizes American police power. Penn, a small time opportunist, epitomizes American rootlessness. He is by no means trustworthy, but pitted against the perverse denizens of Superior (ironically named and looking the very opposite), he actually looks good and gains our sympathy. Jennifer Lopez is well cast as the woman who cannot be trusted ever to give her love and herself fully to any man. Sheís the unattainable. Sheís the dark skinned beauty of mixed blood that the white men would like to conquer and possess unequivocally but cannot.
Sean Penn is taken for quite a ride in this picture. The story is actually about a lot more.