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JACK NICHOLSON IN THE FORGOTTEN NEO NOIR 'BLOOD AND WINE'

Jack Nicholson stars in Bob Rafelson's BLOOD AND WINE Year: 1996 Rating: ***1/2

Some truly inspired casting of two sly human bobcats, one young in this agile twenties and muscular from shark-hunting but what a letdown that doppelgangers Jack Nicholson and Stephen Dorf... the latter the first's step-son... don't play actual blood relatives in Bob Rafelson's forgotten neo noir BLOOD AND WINE set in a humid locale suited for the pulpy, visual page-turning "Cerebral Crime" genre, better known as a Thriller...

Fitfully set in sweat-soaked Florida, on and off the sea although Dorff's Jason isn't the type to get himself that deep into something he's not in complete control of, like a hooked shark, conveniently using a lure attached to a pickup truck, so he's used to opening the usual Noir McGuffin Pandora's Box or some kind of shortcut, always fueled by curiosity...

Jennifer Lopez goes femme fatale in BLOOD AND WINE

Eventually, Alex, played by Nicholson in a classy and distinguished yet thoroughly crooked leading role, attempting to bring his rugged CHINATOWN handsomeness back where its maligned sequel, THE TWO JAKES, failed horribly, might have what the precocious kid wants — at first, as is usual, this comes in the sultry femme fatale form...

Enter an ambiguous yet idealistic, sassy and voluptuous Jennifer Lopez as a Cuban nanny, Gabriel aka Gabby, doing a pretty good job  despite overdoing a Cuban accent, especially speaking the word "Chhhharrrk" (shark)...

Jack Nicholson and Michael Caine in BLOOD AND WINE

Her character is eventually fired by a yacht-lazy couple where the best scenes takes place involving Nicholson's Alex, who'd cased the house so that his working partner for a job other than the semi-titular wine shop, can do his thing...

In the form of a smug yet charming, subdued and plot-line anticipated safe-cracker Vic, dying of emphysema and dreaming of a place to suffocate comfortably — played by the GET CARTER British Neo Noir kingpin Michael Caine... 

Jack Nicholson and his signature Jack rage in BLOOD AND WINE

Yet despite the beloved dream-casting of the legendarily womanizing rogues, it's not entirely an A-list actor's film since Bob Rafelson, who'd worked continuously with Jack since the 1960's (most famously FIVE EASY PIECES), directs in a tightly-wound, precise fashion, especially for a movie sometimes resembling a Straight-To-Video flick (albeit a good one), and particularly one key sequence concerning the nail-biting heist of a diamond neckless... 

Through grainy ambience and intentionally stylistic melodramatic score, the sparse, contained rhythm sustains till the tables turn, and the cache winds up in the hands of the son-in-law and wife (Judy Davis) of an injured and determined Nicholson, who still has a heart beating behind the villainy...

Stephen Dorff in BLOOD AND WINE

At one point the Heist sub-genre is replaced with an investigation-led suspense, where the antagonists seek the protagonists — and to keep the movie rolling with the same kind of deliberately homage-driven yet modern set hard-boiled edge,  it might not be the good people you'll end up "rooting" for...

In that, Dorff's character, tempted to keep the prize, remains inches away from what can happen when the nice guy become too honest — they wind up predictable, uninteresting...

Jack Nicholson in BLOOD AND WINE

Yet even through the somewhat lackluster midsection, when a few too many intrusive complications arise in a slow, unexciting manner, it's subtle moments that really count as Nicholson delivers lines with less of his usual Jack-drawl but without losing intensity or purpose, as happened in Bob Rafelson's Neo Noir THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS...

And with a character having everything to lose, BLOOD AND WINE provides the man a role slightly reminiscent of Rafelson's complete Noir remake THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, and when he really gets ticked-off and unlucky — and worst yet, one-upped and injured by a woman — more than a slight touch of THE SHINING.

As a nod to his real life bad behavior Jack Nicholson in BLOOD AND WINE being...
Beaten with a golf club (cinematic karma) for Bob Rafelson's BLOOD AND WINE
Jack Nicholson and Jennifer Lopez in BLOOD AND WINE
Jennifer Lopez in BLOOD AND WINE
Jennifer Lopez in BLOOD AND WINE
Stephen Dorff in BLOOD AND WINE

Jack Nicholson registers in BLOOD AND WINE

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