Unengaging and surprisingly dull, U-Turn is a modern noir from controversial director Oliver Stone. Even though it boasts A-list actors and an accomplished crew, the meandering film fails to captivate due to a stale premise and a dead-end plot. In fact, the premise and characters are shamelessly pilfered from the 1994 film Red Rock West by John Dahl. Stone has proven himself a skillful and edgy filmmaker who pushes the envelope and makes brazen political statements through film. This effort exemplifies none of the talents that have gained him such attention. The saving grace of the movie is the stylishly surreal cinematography by Robert Richardson, fusing the narrative with a an acid-induced edge seen in Natural Born Killers. Sean Penn, Jennifer Lopez, and Nick Nolte all give convincing performances, but their characters are so unsympathetic that the film is often difficult to watch. The narrative does gain incredible momentum, however, when energetic Joaquin Phoenix and Clare Danes step onto the screen, but these moments are few and far between. The episodic plot never gains any real steam, resulting in a monotonous exercise in genre filmmaking that is the last thing one would have expected from Oliver Stone and his talented cast.
by Adam Goldberg review