A scenery-chewing ensemble cast, headed by the ubiquitous Eric Stoltz, keeps one watching, but fails to salvage the barely released KEYS TO TULSA, a hackneyed and pointless crime melodrama that plays like a television soap opera with nudity and four-letter words, but without the trashy
fun or narrative grip.
Upon returning to his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Richter Boudreau (Eric Stoltz) gets a job as a movie reviewer for the local paper and moves into a farmhouse owned by his wealthy, widowed mother Cynthia (Mary Tyler Moore). Richter meets up with Vicky (Deborah Kara Unger), an old flame, who's now
married to drug dealer Ronnie (James Spader), to whom Richter owes money. Ronnie proposes that Richter help him with a crooked scheme, and gives him a mysterious pouch to hide. After stashing it at his mother's apartment, Richter is visited at his office by his long-lost best friend Keith (Michael
Rooker), who's Vicky's wild brother. Keith tells him that Vicky was disinherited when she married Ronnie, and that she has been sleeping with the executor of the family trust to try to get her money back.
At a strip club, Ronnie introduces Richter to a drug-addicted stripper named Cherry (Joanna Going), who tells him that she recently witnessed the murder of a fellow stripper, and that they're planning to blackmail the rich killer. Cherry goes back with Richter to Keith's mansion and they make
love. The next day, Richter is told by his mother that she is going to marry a Dallas businessman and intends to move to Texas, and that she'll be selling Richter's farmhouse as well. Richter is then invited to meet oil baron Harmon Shaw (James Coburn) for a drink at the country club, and Shaw
offers to pay Richter to leave town in order to stay away from his returning daughter, whom Richter once dated. Richter refuses and returns to work, only to be fired for continually missing deadlines. At Keith's house, Richter sleeps with Vicky, but Keith bursts in and takes pictures of them in
bed together, threatening to send the film to Ronnie.
After finding his farmhouse ransacked, Richter learns from Cherry that Shaw's son Bedford (Marco Perella) was the stripper's killer, and that the pouch Ronnie gave him contains pictures of the murder. Richter retrieves the pouch and meets Ronnie at Keith's house, but Bedford breaks in and
threatens to kill Ronnie if he doesn't give him the pictures. Richter gives Bedford the roll of film containing pictures of him and Vicky, which Ronnie has received from Keith and believes to be the murder pictures. Bedford decides to shoot Ronnie anyway, but before he can, Keith enters and shoots
Bedford to death. Ronnie returns to Vicky, and Richter and Cherry go to a beach in Mexico.
The highly involved and complicated machinations of KEYS TO TULSA could have served as the basis for a ripe and juicy piece of entertaining pulp, but the mundane treatment by first-time director Leslie Greif (a veteran producer whose credits include the 1997 comedy MEET WALLY SPARKS) is
pretentious and visually uninspired, with a torpid narrative pace that doesn't even introduce the blackmail-murder plot until the film is a third over. In characters, story, and milieu, the film aims for a decadent Faulkner/Williams/Inge sex-and-sin flavor--replete with ne'er-do-well prodigal
sons, shrewish mothers, evil tycoons, murderous rich white boys, nympho belles, and golden-hearted whores--but its cliched execution renders it closer to such camp-classics as BUS RILEY'S BACK IN TOWN (1965), albeit without the guilty-pleasure quotient.
KEYS TO TULSA is the kind of movie where seductresses in tight skirts flirtatiously deliver lines like "Oh my, it's hot out today," in comical Southern-fried accents which are about as authentically Oklahoman as the film's Texas-lensed locations. The posturing men, meanwhile, all wear tattoos,
earrings, and stubble, and point guns at each other while trying to act world-weary and disillusioned. All, that is, except for the clean-cut and blandly sarcastic Stoltz, who once again uses his disingenuous Howdy Doody visage to smugly suggest moral and intellectual superiority over the film's
other characters. Only Michael Rooker conveys a true sense of danger, and as the psycho Keith, gets to deliver a line that pithily sums up one's response to the entire film, when, at one point, he tells a fatuously coy Vicky to "cut the hillbilly shit." (Violence, nudity, sexual situations,profanity, substance abuse.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1996
- Rating: R
- Review: A scenery-chewing ensemble cast, headed by the ubiquitous Eric Stoltz, keeps one watching, but fails to salvage the barely released KEYS TO TULSA, a hackneyed and pointless crime melodrama that plays like a television soap opera with nudity and four-letter… (more)