Lonely Hearts

2 out of 5 stars
DESK SET Partners Travolta, left, and Gandolfini mull over their leads.
DESK SET Partners Travolta, left, and Gandolfini mull over their leads.

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

Real-life grifters Raymond Fernandez (Leto) and Martha Beck (Hayek) worked a nifty scam: Dapper Ray would answer some lonely gal’s personal ad and sweep the lovelorn dame off her feet. Girlfriend Martha tagged along, posing as his sister. Once the wedding bells rang and the joint checking account was opened, the new bride would mysteriously go AWOL (i.e., get chopped up and buried beneath the floorboards). The lovers would then move to another state, rinse and repeat. They were eventually caught in 1949, and both were executed by electric chair two years later.

Before you start yelling about The Honeymoon Killers, you should know that, unlike Leonard Kastle’s superbly pulp 1970 film, Todd Robinson’s noirish take only partially focuses on the homicidal duo. He also looks at the case through the eyes of the detective who doggedly chased and nabbed them—one Elmer C. Robinson (Travolta), the director’s grandfather. This time, it’s personal. But any attempts at giving credit to the flatfoot good guy are undermined by a serious lack of quality control. Sure, the cinematography evokes a Weegee-like luridness, but why have a faux-balding Jared Leto with a scuzzy pencil-stache, then cast Salma Hayek (!) as the grotesque Beck? Can’t Travolta summon up more than a constipated grimace? Where’s James Ellroy when you need him? (Opens Fri; Click here for venues.) — David Fear



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