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Fall Time Reviews

Standing as a good example of the Cinema of Cruelty, FALL TIME is a stunning examination of loss of innocence in the 1950s. It's not a coming-of-age ode but a coming-of-death rumination. Rebelling against the mapped-out constrictiveness of their futures, buddies-since childhood David (David Arquette), Tim (Jason London), and Joe (Jonah Blechman) run through their most elaborate practical joke ever. While they plan a small-town lark in which they'll masquerade as robbers and pretend to shoot Tim, a sinister pair of career criminals, Florence (Mickey Rourke) and Leon (Stephen Baldwin), are planning a heist of the same bank the teens have targeted. Foiling the robbery of the pros, Dave and Joey shoot a perplexed Leon with blanks and stuff him into the trunk of their car. Acting instinctually, Florence tracks Tim, terrorizes him into fessing up, and then decides to strong-arm the lad into carrying out the heist with him. Pulling a real weapon on the teens when they release him, edgy Leon imprisons the easily cowed Dave and Joey at their clubhouse and refuses to buy their far-fetched explanation. Paranoid, he badgers them into concocting a story of Florence's betraying him. Told that Leon will ice his buddies, Tim slips into Leon's role and knocks over the bank, but is surprised when Patty (Sheryl Lee), Florence's inside woman at the bank, claims to be an innocent teller after Tim takes her hostage. She seduces Tim after they flee the crime-scene to beat Florence to the hideaway. Before Tim can rescue his friends, Florence guns down Joey at the cabin. Seeming to appease doubtful Leon with this murder, Florence stabs his accomplice to death, rubs out Dave during his shot at freedom, and then wounds Tim. Corrupted by his recent experiences and grieving for his pals, Tim shoots down Florence, and watches wily Patty escape with the bank haul. FALL TIME runs the gamut from heavy-handed knowingness, present in the film's satire of Eisenhower Era complacency, to the icy brilliance demonstrated in its analysis of deviant behavior. Denied a theatrical release because of billing squabbles by the co-stars, this smartly constructed film plays like a joyride where the stolen car's brakes fail; the hapless boys fatefully get more than they bargained for simply by putting themselves in the wrong place at the worst time. Directed with sadistic relish, the scenes of the career criminals mind-gaming and torturing these teen rebels are almost unbearable. Although the bogus bank teller is a key plot element, the character diminishes the screenplay's over-all impact even as she supplies a sex break and provides climax-stalling suspense; somehow the introduction of the dishy dame upsets the delicate balance of the twisted big-brothering of the felons and their victims. Whether power-tripping each other or giving the victims a bitter reality check, Baldwin and Rourke are superb. More commanding than he has been in years, Rourke boasts a lopsided grin that even Satan might envy. Reveling in an opportunity to call the shots, passive-aggressive Leon is chillingly embodied by Baldwin: He is a slave who loses control without his master's domination. The homoerotic undertones in their relationships don't merely jazz up the film with aberrant psychological icing. Their sexual tension seems like role-playing learned as part of prison survival: Florence feeds off Leon's hero worship to get his own way. If the younger players aren't as memorable, that may be the end result of the nature of their victim roles. When they cringe with resigned hopelessness, however, the audience does, too. FALL TIME takes crime seriously, and in doing so, it's more repellently scary than most horror films.(Graphic violence, extreme profanity, sexual situations, adult situations.)