NEVER TALK TO STRANGERS (1995) 1/2 *
The writers of "Never Talk..." are not movie celebrities either, although Jordan Rush must be a favorite son in Carbondale, Illinois, since he graduated from Southern Illinois University. There is also another, more tenuous Illinois connection. This movie's Hungarian cinematographer has shot several American films, including the 1990 "Journey of Hope" (Oscar for Best Foreign Film), which was co-produced by University of Illinois alumnus Bill Hartman. All those tie-ins however do not make a movie worth watching.
It starts fairly promisingly as bright criminal psychologist Sarah (Rebecca De Mornay) has another one of her sessions in jail with accused serial killer Max (Harry Dean Stanton). Character actor Stanton is always good and has, in fact, improved a lot of films with his presence. Here he claims that he suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder, so that other selves are guilty. Ergo, I, Max, am innocent.
We also meet Sarah's womanizer pal Dennis Miller, with whom she once slept (she was drunk then). He then moved into her building, but now Sarah gently rejects his advances.
As a stand-up practitioner, actor and talk show host, Miller is too coarse, questionable and smug. He is in character here as he points out to Sarah that he is not after an involvement but only after sex. (His succinct, explicit phrasing was unprintable in the main paper I write for. But for the censorless Internet it was: " I just want to fuck.")
Sarah also has somewhere a boy-friend who once day disappeared. She and Puerto Rican biker Tony (Banderas) meet cute at a liquor store, where tattooed Tony discourses like a connoisseur of fine wines. This is one of the many mistakes of the film, since he looks as though he should be drinking out of a paper bag.
In quick succession, Sarah goes to his pad for wine-tasting, which means immediate, vigorous sex. Later the two reluctantly exchange information about themselves. Tony works in surveillance, electronic and otherwise.
Soon the plot thickens to impenetrability. Sarah is visited by her estranged and -- it's hinted broadly -- once abusive father. Her off-on relationship with Tony goes with incrementally kinky sex. It is uninteresting, even though the bodies are in fine shape and Miss De Mornay is not siliconed.
Sarah receives a gift package of dead flowers, then another with her dead cat. Later she reads her own obituary in the paper. The audience is theoretically supposed to suspect everyone, including Max who was released for lack of evidence. But the audience doesn't give a hoot.
Intermittently suspecting Tony, Sarah engages a shabby private investigator. Now the surveillance man is under surveillance, on the "set a thief to catch a thief" principle -- while Hitchcock is crying in Movie Heaven.
Sarah learns that Tony is lying about his trips. There's an attempt on her life via an electric heater that HANGS LOOSELY RIGHT OVER HER BATHTUB and is magically supposed to fall and electrocute her at the right moment!
That's about the only electricity in the film, since there is none between De Mornay and Banderas. Instead,this awfully plotted picture throws our way a shipload of red herrings as it gets exponentially incoherent,improbable, impossible, unclear,dull,uninvolving and stupid. It uses a plethora of flashbacks and/or visions. The parts don't join or hold together. The proverbial "holes so big that you can drive a truck through" are here fit for locomotives.
The production values are good,with slick-and-somber camerawork.There is an overabundance of shots from various angles that stress enclosed spaces or suggest partitions, such as freight elevator bars, railings and the like, all heavily symbolic of cages, jails and separations.
The film is a waste of everything and everyone,especially Old Reliable Harry Dean Stanton, whom we see too little of. It was dumb of the plot to have had him released from jail. It was even dumber to have had this movie released.