That SUNSET GRILL remains absorbing despite its plot-heavy screenplay is a testament to its astute film-noir direction, juicy star performances, and a memorably creepy rogues' gallery of supporting players. Inveterate moviegoers searching for that unexpected suspense film that reinvents
pulp material through an idiosyncratic outlook on life will need to look no further than this tangy walk on the wild side.
South of the border, Christian (Peter Koch), an albino assassin, kills Guillermo Via (Benito Martinez), a trafficker in illegal aliens for US corporations. Before his death, Guillermo mails data about his crooked dealings to Ryder Hart (Peter Weller), a burnt-out LA private investigator. Vying
for his ex-wife's favors with Carruthers (Michael Anderson Jr.), a self-righteous cop, Hart nurses a hangover caused by guilt over having provoked his father-in-law's suicide. Paying no attention to his letter from Guillermo, Ryder springs to life after his wife Anita (Alexandra Paul) has her
skull crushed by Christian.
Rounding up some unusual suspects, Ryder grills Harrison Shelgrave (Stacy Keach), a tycoon with a Mayan art fetish, Shelgrave's seductive aide Loren (Lori Singer) who instigates an affair with the detective, Sergeant Jo Stockton (John Rhys-Davies) a rotund, racist cop who manhandles illegal
aliens, and Dr. Tarbus (Randy Pelish) who operates an exclusive clinic for Shelgrave. While seeking his wife's bar-boy, Ricardo (Richard Coca), who can finger her killer, Ryder encounters Ramon (Michael Fernandes) and some Mexican street people who give provisional protection and reveal a twisted
tale of tattooed wetbacks vanishing into thin air. With Carruthers' assistance, Ryder deduces that the envelope Guillermo mailed him contains bar codes that identify several of the missing immigrants and that can be traced to Shelgrave's clinic through a computer link-up. Infiltrating the medical
center, Ryder discovers a black-market organ transplant clinic. However, Shelgrave is tipped off about Ryder's presence and Christian eludes Ryder. In the company of internal affairs cop, Joann Ramirez (Kelly Jo Minter), who's been investigating Stockton, Ryder follows a traumatized Ricardo to his
wife's bar, Sunset Grill. There, a Mexican stand-off ensues in which Ramirez is riddled with bullets, and Stockton and Christian's henchmen turn on each other. Although Ricardo escapes, Christian attacks Ryder, who wakes up in Shelgrave's clinic where Dr. Tarbus tries to prematurely recycle his
body parts. Ryder escapes and kills Christian. At Shelgrave's mansion, Loren spares Ryder's life and instead unexpectedly shoots her mentor. For her part in the crimes against humanity, she is snuffed by Ramon. Sobered up, Ryder Hart re-opens Sunset Grill.
Layers upon layers of conspiracy are uncovered as SUNSET GRILL dissects ruling class venality; there's a pay-off for every seemingly independent event in the script. As the script strands unravel, we discover that each criminal act is contiguous. Somehow this incident-laden plot ties in Ryder's
alcoholism with his failure to protect his deceased father-in-law, an advocate of immigrant rights, and then gives Ryder a chance at redemption if he can close the mad millionaire's human chop shop. Energized by sharp direction that keeps the complicated subplots in motion, SUNSET GRILL
simultaneously creates a sympathetic portrait of a pain-in-the-ass anti-hero at the same time it unfolds a complex mystery about a death merchant who finances his culture lust by killing off expendable aliens for their healthy organs. Making us feel Ryder's pain without condoning his excesses, the
film forces us to invest all our sympathy in his quest for justice. SUNSET GRILL satisfies in many ways: its screenplay forces mystery lovers to exercise their grey matter; its forceful direction creates an authentically seedy atmosphere in which unspeakable crimes naturally flourish. Of course,
there are flaws--the penultimate subplot involving Carruthers' role in police corruption is one plot twist too many, and the Shelgrave clinic is populated by loonies who would be at home in a "Saturday Night Live" parody of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST. But this thriller is Mike Hammer
rewritten by Faulkner; the screenplay is something Orson Welles could have sunk his teeth into. Contemporary mystery thrillers don't come much better than this. (Extensive violence, extreme profanity, sexual situations, extensive nudity.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1993
- Rating: R
- Review: That SUNSET GRILL remains absorbing despite its plot-heavy screenplay is a testament to its astute film-noir direction, juicy star performances, and a memorably creepy rogues' gallery of supporting players. Inveterate moviegoers searching for that unexpect… (more)