Jade

  • 1995
  • Movie
  • R
  • Crime, Erotic, Thriller

How to begin to unravel the fetid tangle of misogynistic fantasies that is JADE, which unites stubbornly sordid screenwriter Joe Eszterhas -- of BASIC INSTINCT notoriety -- and director William Friedkin, who not only once won an Academy Award but was also a filmmaker of considerable skill and intelligence? Coming hot on the heels of the farcically coarse...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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How to begin to unravel the fetid tangle of misogynistic fantasies that is JADE, which unites stubbornly sordid screenwriter Joe Eszterhas -- of BASIC INSTINCT notoriety -- and director William Friedkin, who not only once won an Academy Award but was

also a filmmaker of considerable skill and intelligence?

Coming hot on the heels of the farcically coarse SHOWGIRLS, JADE offers no revelations about Eszterhas's feverishly lewd sensibilities. And Friedkin, whose career has been in the doldrums for years, needs a hit, so it's not hard to figure out why he involved himself with such a seamy but

potentially profitable property. But what could stars David Caruso, Chazz Palminteri and, especially, Linda Fiorentino have been thinking?

All three claimed in interviews to have been fascinated by the ties that bind their characters, college friends David (Caruso), Matt (Palminteri) and Trina (Fiorentino), whose adult relationships are defined by the fact that both men loved Trina. She, of course, could only marry one, and chose

Matt. But whatever complex psychological alliances the actors may have imagined are entirely lost in a cesspool of murder, smutty sexual innuendo, insidious racial stereotypes and a near-pornographic obsession with conspicuously expensive possessions.

David Corelli is a crusading young San Francisco D.A. Matt Gavin is smarmy lawyer to the rich and infamous. Darkly glamorous Trina is a world-renowned clinical psychologist -- her lecture on violence in the workplace is a showstopper -- though one might easily mistake her for a smoldering sexpot

whose interests lie largely below the neckline. As the film opens, David is sucked into the case of a perverted moneybags who's been butchered with a ceremonial axe. Since the deceased's effects include a lovingly displayed collection of pubic hair, the search for the killer begins with his sexual

contacts. One name haunts the investigation: Jade, a mysterious woman who, it ensues, was the millionaire panderer's partner in a high-level prostitution/blackmail scheme and a particular favorite of San Francisco's rich and powerful backdoor men -- including the governor (Richard Crenna).

Viewers won't be surprised to discover that Trina and Jade are one and the same. (Her pseudonym, by the way, seems intended to carry some Orientalist whiff of corrupt sexual allure -- it's not a plot point.) Once Trina has been unmasked, the only mystery is whether she's a sociopathic killer as

well as an irresistibly polluted, brazenly unrepentant whore.

Like SHOWGIRLS, JADE is full of juvenile vulgarity (though Friedkin has given the material a somewhat more successful gloss than SHOWGIRLS director Paul Verhoeven, who appears to have embraced the excesses of American popular culture with the enthusiasm of a slumming European). JADE alludes

gleefully to a variety of sexual practices and accessories one doesn't usually encounter in mainstream Hollywood films, but that's a distinction to which only a naughty 12-year-old would aspire. By the same token, it's informed throughout by a puerile, voyeuristic loathing of the icky things grown

men get up to with the sort of women who let them.

Eszterhas's much-discussed misogyny is here given free rein. Trina is a figure of paranoid male fantasy and a shameful waste of the genuinely seductive Fiorentino. She is -- naturally -- treated abominably, leered at (in person and on videotape), bullied, beaten, humiliated and nearly sodomized.

And she's still better off than the film's only other significant female character, lesbian prostitute Patrice Jacinto (Angie Everhart), who is introduced via a series of dirty snapshots and winds up squashed beneath the wheels of a car.

Palminteri and Caruso are merely left to bluster and bully through scenes that are apparently meant to convey the genteel brutality of the highest echelons of economic and political power. They don't. It's all faintly ridiculous, and might be funny if not for the seriousness with which everyone

involved seems to have approached the wretched material. JADE's seamy excesses would be conventional in a direct-to-video erotic thriller; in a major studio production, they're embarrassing.

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  • Released: 1995
  • Rating: R
  • Review: How to begin to unravel the fetid tangle of misogynistic fantasies that is JADE, which unites stubbornly sordid screenwriter Joe Eszterhas -- of BASIC INSTINCT notoriety -- and director William Friedkin, who not only once won an Academy Award but was also… (more)

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