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Princess I Division

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Sibyl Fendley
Sibyl Fendley

Blood And Wine (1996)

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Nicholson is a Florida wine dealer whose business is going broke, whose wife (Judy Davis) wants to leave him, and whose stepson (Stephen Dorff) hates him. He hooks up with a tubercular British exile (Michael Caine) to steal a million-dollar diamond necklace from the house of some rich people. But it is all so much more complicated than that and includes Nicholson's sexual liaison with the rich family's nanny (Jennifer Lopez). That's just the set-up. The plot gets *really* complicated.

"Blood & Wine'' was directed and co-written by Bob Rafelson, who directed Nicholson's first great picture ("Five Easy Pieces," 1970) and also worked with him in "The King of Marvin Gardens" (1972), "The Postman Always Rings Twice" (1981) and the unsuccessful "Man Trouble" (1992). This is a return to the tone of their best work; all the major characters are villains or victims. Director Paul Schrader was telling me not long ago that movies have passed out of an existential period and into an ironic period. In that case, "Blood & Wine'' is a throwback, because there is nothing ironic about these characters except what finally happens to them. The plot is lurid and blood-soaked beyond description, but is handled seriously, as a string of events illustrating the maxim that bad things happen to bad people.

Michael Caine, who can sleepwalk through bad movies, can bring good ones a special texture. Here he is convincing and sardonically amusing as a wreck of a man who chain-smokes, coughs, spits up blood and still goes through the rituals of a jewel thief because that is who he is. He is capable of sudden violence (pounding Nicholson with a golf club, he observes, "That was an acupuncture point''). But he almost inspires sympathy as a crook who has labored a long time at a hard profession and has nothing to show for it.

Heavily in debt, Alex hatches a plan to steal a valuable diamond necklace from the house of his clients, the Reese family, where his Cuban mistress Gabriela works. He cases the house during a wine delivery with Jason, who works in Alex's business. Jason becomes attracted to Gabriela, unaware of her relationship with his stepfather.

On the day of the heist, Alex and his partner Victor, a British safe-cracker, arrive at the house under the pretense that the Reeses' wine cellar needs repairs. Gabriela was supposed to let them in, but she was fired the day before. Fortunately, Alex had cultivated a relationship with the security guard and is able to convince him to let them inside. Victor sends Alex and the guard off on an errand while he works on the safe, but a second guard becomes suspicious, although Victor is able to complete the job before being discovered.

Alex Gates (Jack Nicholson) neglects his stepson Jason (Stephen Dorff) and his wife Suzanne (Judy Davis). Alex is a wine dealer heavily in debt. Jason would rather fish with his friend Henry (Harold Perrineau Jr.) than work with his stepfather. Alex is looking to steal a diamond necklace from his customer the Reeses with the help of safecracker partner Victor (Michael Caine) and his mistress Gabriela (Jennifer Lopez) who is the Reeses' maid.This is a great cast with a good performance from Caine. Director Bob Rafelson doesn't inject enough style to match the noir style story. The cinematic style is pedestrian. His better earlier work is not surpassed. The scheme is not the best. Alex and Gabriela would be the obvious prime suspect especially with the security guards. Only Victor seems to be doing any thinking. However if Alex is ever caught, he'd probably give up Victor quickly. The plan seems ill-conceived but I'm willing to accept the desperate robbers' stupidity. The movie is limited but has good enough tension and great actors. For a movie with Lopez, this could have been sexier. It could have been better in many ways.

Alex (Jack Nicholson) and Suzanne (Judy Davis) have a hellish marriage. She is a drunk and he cheats on her. But Alex also has a side business his wife is un


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