Veteran provocateur James Toback's sun-drenched and thoroughly repellent variation on film noir conventions revolves around the undeclared war of wills between amoral vixen Vera (Neve Campbell) and the presumptuous opportunists who make the mistake of thinking they can exploit her. Over the course of one busy day, wealthy, pampered daddy's girl Vera applies for a job with lecherous windbag (Toback himself, playing perhaps the least convincing academic since he cast Joey Lauren Adams as a philosophy professor in 2002's HARVARD MAN); indulges in some afternoon delight with her girlfriend (Joelle Carter); entertains the indulgent parents (Barry Primus, Karen Allen) who've just bought her a pricey Manhattan loft; and toys with poor-but-ambitious Ford (Frederick Weller), whose transparent maneuvering ensures the disdain of the rich and influential types to whose company he aspires. Fresh from disporting himself in Central Park with three aspiring actress-model-rappers on the strength of his entertainment-industry connections, Ford gets the brush-off from hip-hop mogul Damon Dash (as himself) and sees his tenuous hold over aging Italian media magnate Count Tommaso (Dominic Chianese) slipping away. The count, who once glimpsed Vera in an airport VIP lounge, tolerates Ford in hopes of an introduction, and Ford is more than happy to pimp Vera to the decrepit billionaire in return for a $100,000 finder's fee. Ford is shocked when Vera, who neither needs the money nor has shown any previous interest in geriatric rumpy-pumpy, agrees to the setup. He makes haste to consummate the deal before she changes her mind, but neither the Baron nor Ford has reckoned with Vera's cold-blooded vindictiveness. Toback cloaks his prurient preoccupations with empty rhetoric about laying bare America's hypocritical obsession with race and class, while making films of ever more juvenile smuttiness. Though once capable of writing distinct characters, Toback now populates his pictures with one-dimensional conceits who all talk like undereducated hustlers, from college professors to bottom feeders and international lions of business. And he demonstrates no understanding of the combination of steel and velvet that makes the iconic black widows of classic noir films so bewitching that streetwise tough guys surrender to their fatal charms like saps. His Vera, who shares her name with the poisonous hitchhiker of Edgar G. Ulmer's nightmarish DETOUR (1945), is simply vile, a misogynistic fantasy of emasculating empowerment without an interesting wrinkle in her repertory of betrayal.
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- Released: 2004
- Rating: R
- Review: Veteran provocateur James Toback's sun-drenched and thoroughly repellent variation on film noir conventions revolves around the undeclared war of wills between amoral vixen Vera (Neve Campbell) and the presumptuous opportunists who make the mistake of thin… (more)