[Screen It]


(1997) (Sean Penn, Jennifer Lopez) (R)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Mild Extreme Extreme Moderate Heavy
Moderate Minor Moderate None Extreme
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Extreme Moderate Moderate Mild Extreme

Drama: A small-time gambler finds himself stuck in a desert town filled with eccentric characters including a husband and wife who separately want him to kill the other.
Bobby Cooper (SEAN PENN) is a small-time gambler who's heading to Las Vegas to pay off a debt to some Russian gangsters so they won't cut off any more of his fingers. His car blows a radiator hose in the desert, however, and he's forced to stop in the small Arizona town of Superior to get it fixed. It's then that he begins to think he's entered the twilight zone. Darrell (BILLY BOB THORTON), a grinning, grease-covered hick mechanic, doesn't know how long it'll take to fix the car, so Bobby heads into town. There he meets an old wisdom-filled and blind Indian man (JON VOIGHT) and later, Grace McKenna (JENNIFER LOPEZ) a beautiful woman who instantly flirts with him. Having time to kill and thinking he's going to get some "action," he heads back to her place. They're interrupted, though, by her jealous realtor husband, Jake (NICK NOLTE). Bobby apologizes and leaves, but Jake catches him and after talking a while, asks if he'll kill Grace for a cut of her insurance money. The offer's tempting to Bobby who's recently had his loan money shredded by a shotgun blast during a robbery, but he's not sure. While he waits for his car and ponders the offer, he must also deal with the local constable, Sheriff Potter (POWERS BOOTHE) who has his watchful eye on Bobby, and a jealous young thug, Toby N. Tucker (JOAQUIN PHOENIX) a.k.a. "TNT," who thinks Bobby's try to steal Jenny (CLAIRE DANES), his underage girlfriend. After he fails to kill Grace and instead has sex with her, she tells him about a large sum of money that Jake has hidden away, that could be theirs if he'll kill her husband. Feeling pressure from the gangsters and desperately wanting to get out of this strange town, Bobby must decide who, if anyone, he'll kill for the money to get his car and leave.
Someone in the cast might draw teens, as might director Oliver Stone's ("Natural Born Killers") name. Preteens, though, will probably have no interest in this film.
For strong violence, sexuality and language.
Few, if any parents, would consider any of the cast members as good role models.


OUR TAKE: 5.5 out of 10
When the opening strains of "It's a Good Day" by singer Peggy Lee start off this movie, you know it's going to be anything but when you see the name, Oliver Stone, under the directed by title. Well known for his capacity and zest for shaking up the established Hollywood norms -- be it wild controversy in "J.F.K." or "Nixon," or similarly received bloodbaths in "Natural Born Killers -- Stone has a knack for making movies that people either really hate or really love, with few falling in between. He's done it again with this film. A mix of the old westerns where the stranger arrives in town and the twilight zone type plots of "After Hours" and the recent Michael Douglas film, "The Game," this picture features Sean Penn stuck in a hellish desert hole where things get weirder by the minute.

That's always an intriguing genre premise and Stone pushes it to its extreme by shooting the film in the same, "in your face," never-a-dull-moment style as he did in "NBK." Getting his money's worth out of his editors, Hank Corwin and Thomas Nordberg (who also cut "NBK"), and cinematographer Robert Richardson (who received as Oscar for "J.F.K"), the film is amazing, but often jarring to watch. While audiences will probably like the included time-lapse desert photography, the wild camera angles, extreme close-ups, and bizarre editing will probably put off most mainstream audience members. Although you can say it's good that Stone feels he can experiment with this radical type of film making (that started with "Natural Born Killers"), I see it as a shame. Stone directed some great films in the 80's (in particular "Platoon," "Wall Street," and the underrated "Talk Radio") that looked -- and were -- inventive, but weren't too far out "there." You can state that he's experimenting now, but this reviewer wishes he'd get back to more "traditional" shooting styles and stop trying to whack us over the head with cinematic outrageousness. He's done it twice and that's enough and it's time to get back to more serious film making.

The subject matter and the graphic on screen sex and violence will also put off many viewers. It is all done with a slight comic tone, however, including some truly bizarre upbeat music, and all of it has a sort of wacky twilight zone feel to it. Indeed, some minor bits are terrifically hilarious. In particular, Billy Bob Thorton (of "Sling Blade" fame) is knee slapping funny as a caricature of a redneck mechanic who exemplifies that silly off kilter universe into which Penn's fallen. Similar in tone, but not quite as funny is Joaquin Phoenix as an angry, jealous tough guy, and of course there has to be a waitress in the diner named Flo. There are some odd cameos, however, including "it" girl, Liv Tyler, who's briefly seen in a train station with nothing much to do except show up on camera (maybe she'll have a bigger part in Stone's next film). The leads are competent in their roles, and while it seemed strange at first casting Penn as the "hero," he turns out to be anything but that and the casting all works out well. Seen as a slight tongue-in-check feature, the film is always interesting to watch and occasionally funny. Viewed as a "regular" film, it's intriguing, but a bit too ugly to attract and entertain mainstream audience members and this film should generate more controversy -- but probably not as much as "NBK" -- for Stone. At times we liked it and at others we didn't, and thus "U Turn" gets a 5.5 out of 10 rating.

There's plenty here for most parents to be cautioned about, and it should be noted that this leans toward the heavy side of an R rating. Some of the material is played in a comic tone, but other bits are rather straightforward and graphic. There are several graphic sexual encounters, but surprisingly not a great deal of nudity, although there is explicit movement and we hear some sounds. Violence is extreme with several people being killed in rather gruesome ways, and the overall "killer for hire" theme will probably put off many viewers. Profanity is also extreme with more than 60 "f" words heard throughout along with many "lesser" words and phrases. There's also the subject of spousal abuse, father/daughter rape, and that stepfather marrying his stepdaughter. Due to the many extreme ratings this film receives, we strongly suggest that you read through the scene listings to determine whether it's appropriate for anyone in your family.

  • A gangster drinks wine.
  • Bobby asks whether everyone in the town is on drugs and T.N.T. tells him he's never taken drugs. Bobby replies, "Maybe you should."
  • Bobby purchases a beer in a cafe but drops it outside before drinking any.
  • We briefly see Jake drinking a beer.
  • Grace states that her mother became an alcoholic.
  • The sheriff drinks from a bottle while driving (and on duty) several times.
  • Some vultures tear at a dog's bloody, dead body and pull some entrails from it.
  • We see a bloody, freshly run over cat on the road.
  • Bobby's hand (and the stubs where two fingers used to be) is very bloody while he showers.
  • Two men are rather bloody after being shot and killed by shotgun blasts.
  • Bobby's hand is bloody after cutting it trying to twist off a beer bottle top (and we later see it again as a deep hole in his palm).
  • We see several shots of Grace's dead mother after she fell from a cliff, and is obviously bloody.
  • Bobby's forehead is very bloody after Jake hits him with a gun.
  • Jake is very bloody after he's been struck several times with a hatchet (including a large bloody hole in his chest) and both Grace and Bobby are bloody from this.
  • Blood splatters and the sheriff, who's been shot, is bloody.
  • Bobby is extremely bloody at the end of the movie as are several bodies that have been tossed onto rocks at the bottom of a cliff.
  • Not only is Bobby involved in some sort of criminal activity (owing money to some gangsters), but he also immediately looks down on the citizens of Superior. He tells Darrell, "That's why you're just living here and I'm passing through" when describing the differences between the two of them. He also agrees at different times to be hired to kill Grace and Jake (and says about women, "Can't live with ‘em, can't shoot ‘em.")
  • Grace and Jake have both as each wants to have the other killed (and tries to hire Bobby to do the "job"). Additionally, Jake married Grace who is his stepdaughter, and had sex with her while her mother was still living (when not beating her).
  • Two thugs rob a market at gunpoint and rough up Bobby when he won't hand over his bag.
  • Jake calls Grace, who's part Indian, "half breed."
  • T.N.T. constantly tries to pick a fight with Bobby.
  • Some viewers will also see some scenes listed under "Violence" as tense.
  • Bobby stands with Grace at the edge of a cliff after he's agreed to kill her for Jake. As he moves closer to her (her back is to him), we don't know whether he's going to push her.
  • Bobby has some tense encounters with TNT, who wants to fight him over his girlfriend, and with Darrell over his car.
  • Bobby enters Jake and Grace's house to kill Jake, but the husband hears Bobby and gets a gun and the two search for each other in the darkened home. After that, there are several tense and violent encounters involving all three. Similarly, the ending is tense and violent. See "Violence" for details.
  • Handguns/Hatchet: Used to threaten, wound, or kill people. See "Violence" for details.
  • Garden Shears: Used (in a flashback) to cut off two of Bobby's fingers.
  • Phrases: "Punk," "Fart," "Deadbeat," "Bastard," "Bitch" (toward women), "Half breed" (toward a woman who's part Indian), "Piss me off," and "Smart ass."
  • Bobby accidentally runs over a cat that runs across the road in front of him, and later kicks a cat across a room that was rubbing against his leg.
  • We see a flashback where some thugs beat up Bobby (for owing them money) and after repeatedly hitting and kicking him, they cut off two of his fingers with garden shears.
  • Bobby throws down a used cigarette as well as an empty pill bottle (littering).
  • TNT suddenly hits Bobby when he (and we) least expects it.
  • There's a moderate amount of suspenseful and tense music in several scenes.
  • None.
  • At least 61 "f" words (11 used sexually and 6 used with "mother"), 19 "s" words, 3 slang terms for female genitals (the "p" word), 16 hells, 8 asses (1 used with "hole"), 8 S.O.B.'s, 5 damns, and 16 uses of "G-damn," 4 uses of "Christ," 2 uses of "God" and 1 use each of "Jesus," "By God," and "Oh my God" as exclamations.
  • We see Bobby's bare butt (from above him) while he showers.
  • Grace shows some cleavage and tries to seduce Bobby by asking "What do you want?" while having him kneel between her spread legs and later having him hold her butt while she hangs curtains in her home.
  • Jake talks to Bobby about Grace and says, "I bet she had you as hard as a rock, wiggling her ass in your face."
  • Bobby and Grace have sex outside. We see his bare butt as well as a great deal of movement as he's between her legs and we hear sexual sounds. She then stops him (before he's finished) and he runs over behind some bushes and masturbates (not explicitly seen, but heavily implied).
  • Grace tells Bobby about Jake's safe key slapping up against her "when we do it."
  • Jake has sex from behind Grace and there is graphic sexual movement. Moments later, it's implied that he's performing oral sex on her (but it's not seen).
  • Bobby and Grace have sex in front of a dead man. We see some movement and hear some sounds.
  • We see a flashback of Grace having sex with the sheriff and briefly see her bare breasts.
  • Bobby smokes several times during the movie.
  • Jake smokes a few times (including a pipe).
  • Miscellaneous characters also smoke.
  • We learn that Jake is actually Grace's stepdad and that he had sex with her when her mother was still living, and that Jake beat that mother. Additionally, the two of them don't get along and want the other killed.
  • Wanting to hire someone to kill someone else.
  • Incest.
  • Bobby accidentally runs over a cat that runs across the road in front of him, and later kicks a cat across a room that was rubbing against his leg.
  • We see a flashback where some thugs beat up Bobby (for owing them money) and after repeatedly hitting and kicking him, they cut off two of his fingers with garden shears.
  • Jake punches Bobby after finding him kissing his wife.
  • Two thugs rob a market at gunpoint. One of them then threatens Bobby and hits him with his gun. The woman behind the counter then pulls out a shotgun and shoots the first man dead. The other man returns fire but is also shot by the woman with the shotgun.
  • We learn that Jake not only beat his wife, but also raped Grace when she was his stepdaughter.
  • We see the body of Grace's mother at the bottom of a cliff where she was obviously pushed and fell to her death.
  • TNT hits Bobby and then kicks him several times. Bobby then gets up and proceeds to severely beat up TNT and backhands Jenny when she tries to intervene.
  • Jake hits Bobby on the forehead with a gun and then holds the gun to his head preparing to shoot him.
  • Bobby hits Jake with a golf club causing the gun he's carrying to fire. Jake then grabs Bobby in a bear hug and Grace slams a large hatchet into Jake's back. There's another struggle and she hits Jack in the chest with the hatchet again (and Bobby does the same).
  • The sheriff hits Bobby several times until Grace shoots and kills him.
  • Bobby slugs Grace (thinking she's going to kill him) while they're dumping bodies over a cliff. Grace then pushes Bobby over the cliff. Later, he strangles her while she shoots him once with a gun.

  • Reviewed September 29, 1997

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