USA, 1995. Rated R. 95 minutes.

Cast: David Caruso, Linda Fiorentino, Chazz Palminteri, Michael Biehn, Donna Murphy, Richard Crenna, Ken King, Holt McCallany, David Hunt, Angie Everhart, Kevin Tighe
Writer: Joe Eszterhas
Music: James Horner
Cinematographer: Andrzej Bartkowiak
Producers: Gary Adelson, Craig Baumgarten, Robert Evans
Director: William Friedkin


Grade: D+ Review by Carlo Cavagna

When people think of Jade, people wonder, "What the hell happened to David Caruso?" Jade was his second post-NYPD Blue feature film, as well as his second big screen outing as a leading man. It was also his last movie before a precipitous downward career spiral that saw his movie offers dry up, a short-lived return to television (in CBS's Michael Hayes), and didn't end until he stole Proof of Life from Russell Crowe and Meg Ryan. But what happened to David Caruso is no mystery. The press ate him alive for leaving the immensely popular NYPD Blue just a few shows into its second season to continue pursuing his movie career, and, even though Kiss of Death (his first post-NYPD Blue effort) was mildly successful, Jade tanked.

What people should really ask when they think of Jade is, "What the hell happened to William Friedkin?" In the early 1970s, Friedkin was mentioned in the same breath as Coppola and Scorsese. He won a Best Director Oscar for The French Connection and was nominated again for The Exorcist. But he never again made a great or financially successful film. Instead, he has made a series of duds, including a pointless remake of The Wages of Fear (The Sorcerer), a dumb comedy (Deal of the Century), a nihilistic (albeit not bad) reworking of The French Connection for the Miami Vice era (To Live and Die in L.A.), and a formulistic courtroom thriller (The Rules of Engagement).

The frustrating thing about Jade is that it proves Friedkin still has it. The drawn-out opening sequence, a build-up to a murder during which the camera drifts through an opulent mansion filled with valuable artwork, including several eerie masks, is masterful. The signature of the artist who made The Exorcist is unmistakable. Moreover, the protracted car chase an hour into the film is nearly the equal of Friedkin's exceptional car chases in The French Connection and To Live and Die in L.A., and recalls similarly stomach-lurching work by John Frankenheimer in The French Connection II and Ronin. The secret seems to lie in not overdoing the action and instead allowing the intensity of the actors to play into the scene, while at the same time putting a camera in the car to show the fracas from the driver's perspective.

Friedkin's direction means that Jade is often watchable, but unfortunately he hasn't broken his pattern of choosing dreadful scripts. Jade is the work of Joe Eszterhas, he who wrote Basic Instinct and the laughable Showgirls. Eszterhas shouldn't get too much credit for Basic Instinct, whose sinister neo-noir tone and star-making turn by Sharon Stone made us overlook the fact that the story made no sense. As a screenwriter, Eszterhas had success in the 1980s with Flashdance and The Jagged Edge, but Basic Instinct's success was a ticket to self-indulgence, because Sliver and Jade rev up the nudity and debasement with far inferior results.

Jade follows assistant District Attorney David Correlli (Caruso) as he probes the murder of a rich art collector and political patron. The trail of clues leads to the office of the Governor of California (Richard Crenna) as well as to his best friend Matt (Chazz Palminteri) and former lover Katrina (Linda Fiorentino), who are married. This being an Eszterhas film, the murder is connected to a sexual club of rich men who were being serviced (and subsequently blackmailed) at the deceased's vacation home by a young hairdresser (Angie Everhart) and a voracious sexual predator known only as "Jade." You have exactly one guess who Jade turns out to be.

Jade opens intriguingly, but the more details of the plot are divulged, the more difficult it becomes to maintain interest, until Jade finally disintegrates into an incoherent jumble of nonsensical motivations, conflicting plot points, and wholesale misogyny. Flashdance aside, Eszterhas clearly has a problem with women, because in his movies they all seem to be temptresses or murderers, and nudity is most definitely required. The femme fatale is, of course, a traditional element of the noir-ish suspense thriller, but in Jade Eszterhas pushes too far, seemingly venting his personal fantasies and distaste for women for everyone to see--yet again. Jade is more degrading to women than some porn films.

Perhaps sensing that the script is a loser, the actors don't seem too interested. Linda Fiorentino phones in her oft-seen ice queen, while Palminteri, who hasn't cashed in on the promise of A Bronx Tale and Bullets Over Broadway, plays yet another moneyed bastard. Caruso makes a good investigator, but his is also a performance we've seen before. His usual screen presence seems diminished by a touch of haggard weariness, as if he senses that efforts to save Jade are pointless.

Review © August 2001 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Images © 1995 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

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