Meet the 'Hat Squad', a free-ranging unit of the LAPD comprising Detectives Hoover (Nolte), Coolidge (Palminteri), Hall (Madsen) and Relyea (Penn). It's the early '50s. A good-time gal is found embedded in six inches of sand, like a steamroller had a crush on her. Who knew her? Gay film-maker Jimmy Fields (McCarthy), for starters; the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, General Timms (Malkovich), more intimately; and then there's the very married, very motivated detective Max Hoover. With cinematography by Haskell Wexler, production design by Richard Sylbert and a cast fleshed out with the likes of Treat Williams, Daniel Baldwin and Bruce Dern, this has the look down pat, but when it comes to substance, emotional complexity or narrative authority, forget it, Jake, this isn't Chinatown. Director Tamahori caught the eye with Once Were Warriors, but his first Hollywood feature falls flat with a hollow thud. It doesn't help that, after an intriguing opening, Pete Dexter's screenplay fails to construct a mystery which really connects, that too many supporting characters never come to life, and that Malkovich invests a pivotal role with his peculiar brand of terminal lethargy.