Half-assed in its edginess but full-on trashy, this blood-drenched road movie features an over-the-top Brad Pitt in his Method actor phase; a dead-on Juliette Lewis as yet another special-ed Lolita; a pre-X-Files David Duchovny warming up his Fox Mulder persona; and an icy Michelle Forbes as a castrating intellectual poseur. Pitt's Early Grayce is the most unlikely and over-the-top collection of cheekbones, tics, abs, and guttersnipe slang ever to grace the silver screen. The actor allegedly broke a tooth while opening a beer bottle with his teeth to get into character, and such dedication shows in every nasal snort and lascivious leer. Duchovny's Brian Kessler narrates with incessant banality, lending more sympathy to the serial-killer antagonist than to his own stupid yuppie self. Lewis shows off her considerable skills in a role designed to be sexy, tacky, and pitiable at the same time, while Forbes is a study in minimalism -- all scowl, severe bangs, and artistic pretension. Dominic Sena, who moved from music videos to Kalifornia to a career as a would-be action auteur, infuses each frame of his film with flashy shades of dread, but he never achieves the disturbing grittiness of later Pitt vehicle Seven or even the amphetamine overkill of the Lewis-starring Natural Born Killers. In fact, Kalifornia actually works better as a comedy: a violent and bitchy update of the mixed-doubles scenarios that powered such classic sitcoms as The Honeymooners and I Love Lucy. Oh, that wacky murderer and his ditsy girlfriend. Oh, that pseudo-transgressive photographer and her sensitive new age guy. Put 'em together and you have a movie that's entertaining in spite of itself -- one that exposes the shallowness of urban hipsterdom by wallowing in the supposed depravities of the trailer-park set. Not exactly a light or unlifting viewing experience, but hey -- it's a lot more fun than watching Anthony Hopkins cook Ray Liotta's brains.
by Brian J. Dillard review