Not as successful as Red Rock West in the film noir genre, this is nevertheless an interesting film as it studies the behaviour of homo sapiens under the merciless glare of the Arizona sun. Oliver Stone's visual pyrotechnics delivers up some striking images of desert creatures .. vultures, lizards, mountain lions, hawks, snakes. scorpions. etc . . .This is presumably meant to reflect on the four central characters, Penn, Lopez, Nolte and Boothe, who exhibit various degrees of animal passion along with more sympathic traits . . ie a desperate need for love and security. Jon Voight is the Greek Chorus in this heady mix, a sort ofTiresias to Penn's Oedipus. But the allegory isn't really consistent as it is Lopez who is the tragic victim of incestuous coupling. Thornton's mechanic adds complications to the moral dimensions of the film, but it's really too tenous to hold the film together. . . . With its array of flawed characters, the screenplay eventually relies on irony, as we see the characters in hubristic spiralling downwards, and one is left at the end of the film somewhat depressed about the state of `homo sapiens` . Although Stone uses a romantic musical score to emphasize the good moments between Penn and Lopex, both characters are too driven by their demons to escape the harsh desert sun. Not bad though and worth seeing several times.
Time Out saysWhen his Mustang breaks down in Superior, Arizona, gambler Bobby Cooper (Penn) has no idea how low his luck has sunk. He picks up the lusty Grace (Lopez), or she picks up him - either way, her husband Jake (Nolte) isn't happy. In fact, he has his own proposition for the stranger. He wants his wife dead and reckons Bobby's the man for the job. He might be, too, if Grace can't make a better offer. John Ridley's script (from his book Stray Dogs) affects the tortuous contrivances of a malign and witty fate, in the manner of James M Cain, Jim Thompson, or more recently Red Rock West. But it's this affectation which kills the film. Stone directs with the same inebriated three-second attention span he adopted for Natural Born Killers, experimenting with different film gauges, stocks and speeds every other shot. To be fair, going by Ennio Morricone's spaghetti-and-meatballs score, Stone is fishing for laughs much of the time. Penn turns in a crisp, unfussy comic performance, Lopez vamps like a scorpion in heat, Nolte sustains a pretty good John Huston impression, and Thornton is mighty peculiar as the mechanic from hell.