Nice shots of the bayou under the opening credits. Unspoiled rivers, pristine swamps, oaks draped with Spanish moss. It all looks rather promising. I guess you can still find such subtle but majestic littorals, maybe along route 90 around Houma, but from most highways in southern Louisiana all you see is oily swamp water with derricks planted in it. Beer cans and garbage and, quien sabe?, corpses floating in the murk.
The movie's kind of like that too. The location shooting is just fine. Everyone sweats up a storm in the heat and humidity and it's no wonder that they head for the gin rickeys with all that ice. New Orleans is exposed in all its funkiness. The French Quarter is more or less avoided, but we get to see the lesser neighborhoods, now drowned and empty of human life in the wake of Katrina.
There are the shotgun houses of the poor, the stripper bars playing bluesy music. The streetcars travel not through the Garden District but through ordinary residential streets. Beautiful in its own rotting way, almost phosphorescent with corruption. Outside the city there are bait shops that rent boats and sell tackle. One of these is run by Alec Baldwin, ex cop, recovering alcoholic.
The story isn't very much, when you come right down to it. Hard to follow at times, not really captivating but not absolutely mainstream generic either. Baldwin has a marvelously normal family, including a stolen adopted girl, but is accidentally involved in some shenanigans I couldn't quite follow, something about smuggling, which draws the attention of the mob. Baldwin doesn't seem to actually DO anything that threatens their presence but they surround his house one lightning-filled night and do his loving and courageous wife (Kelly Lynch). The rest of the plot is a revenge story, with Baldwin tracking down the killers one by one.
There are some good action scenes, a chase across the rooftops, a battle on a streetcar. All the action is done in slow motion so you get a chance to savor it -- the crashing crashing cars, the catapulting bodies, the muzzle flashes brilliantly lighting up the interiors of dark houses. PS: Mister Director, can we have a moratorium on slow-motion deaths? It's more than a cliché; it's positively decadent by now. Let's get together and blame Sam Pekinpah, okay?
I thought the conclusion was pretty well done. After his wife is blasted to shreds by shotguns, an attractive young blond -- and old friend -- moves into his house in the woods and provides him with some emotional comfort. They once were quite close.
Now -- see -- Baldwin's wife is gone, and he's got this little Latina girl that he's adopted, but there's a big hole in the nuclear family. (In other words, the guy needs a wife.) A conventional script calls for him to overcome his grief and fall in love with the reassuring and loving blond babe. But no. When he makes clear that he holds his wife's memory sacred, the blond leaves him a note and takes off, realizing he's not ready to get on with his life, as they say. The last scene has Baldwin in his house, gazing affectionately at his sleeping little girl, then falling on his back beside her. Sensing his presence she twists over and puts her arm around his chest, and he places his hand over hers and stares at the ceiling. It is not a cheap shot. It's a brief but genuinely tender scene, encompassing both love and the loss of it.