When you read the title SEARCH AND DESTROY, you immediately
thought it was another vehicle for either Jean Claude Van Damme or
Charles Bronson to show off their ability to slaughter hordes of bad
guys. Right? Wrong. This is a musical starring Christopher Walken as
a song and dance man.
Okay, so I lied, but only partially. This movie does feature a
song and dance routine by Christopher Walken, and although it is a
black comedy with a plot, the plot's meaning is so obscure that
characterizing the show as a musical for its single musical number, is
as good a characterization as any.
In the movie, Martin Mirkhein (Griffin Dunne) is a small time
operator and loser married to Lauren Mirkhein (Rosanna Arquette). He
listens to the motivational pitches made on late night cable TV by Dr.
Waxling (Dennis Hopper) and loves Dr. Waxling's adventure novel
featuring a character called Martin Strong who reveals the four inner
secrets of life. His secrets include don't apologize since what
apologize for is what you really want. Another is that just because
you do something that doesn't mean it's interesting. Dr. Waxling's
speaking into the camera is such a parody that it is clearly the best
part of the movie. Too bad the scene only lasts a minute or two.
Martin Mirkhein decides that the way to make some serious money
and to get his $100,000+ overdue Florida taxes paid right away as
advised by his accountant (Martin Scorsese - also the executive
producer) is to make a movie of Dr. Waxling's book. Roger (Ethan
Hawke), Dr. Waxling's bodyguard, will not let Mirkhein see Dr. Waxling
so Mirkhein makes a play for Marie Davenport (Illeana Douglas) the
doctor's assistant in order to get to see the doctor. This is not easy
since Mirkhein, like Martin Strong, practices sexual abstinence to show
his strength of character. Later Mirkhein seeks the aid of some shady
characters called Kim Ulander (Christopher Walken) and Ron (John
Turturro) to make money to impress the doctor.
First time director David Salle seems to think he is going to be
the next Fellini. Salle populates his movie with tons of quirky
characters like Fellini. Salle's, however, are about as believable and
interesting as cardboard figures. The audience in the art house I went
to set through the entire movie in stunned silence. Nobody moved. We
all stared at the screen in amazement. What was this all about we
seemed to all be thinking. When the credits started, everyone, except
me, quickly stood up and left immediately (and without saying a word).
The script by Michael Almereyda, based on a play by Howard Korder,
has the sole virtue of being extremely bizarre. The writing and the
directing had all of the actors acting like free agents from different
movies who all happened to be captured by the camera together. There
was no chemistry or believability among them. I must admit, on the
other hand, I never considered leaving early. I developed sort of a
morbid fascination of where the show was going and how it would end.
By the way, it goes nowhere and the ending is the worst part -
I am a fan of every one of the actors mentioned above. I even
like Dunne and Arquette who have been in one bad movie after another.
I felt sad seeing all the actors in this show. I kept thinking of all
of the times I had enjoyed their work. I absolutely loved Ethan Hawke,
for example, in the recent BEFORE SUNRISE - which is a show you must
see if you have not done so already, but here he was given a worthless
part with pathetic dialog. What a waste!
Copyright © 1995 Steve Rhodes