1996’s Blood and Wine, set on the Florida coast, is one of the lesser known Jack Nicholson’s films.
At first it feels like a domestic drama with crime elements and maybe some Nicholson whimsy or sarcastic humor, where the primary relationship will be between Nicholson and his wife and stepson, with Michael Caine being an interesting lesser character. However, it soon turns into far more of a straight, sometimes violent, crime drama, with the domestic stuff receding a bit into a lesser role, with the focus at least as much on Nicholson and Caine as crime partners as on any other relationship.
In terms of the story, the suspense, the pacing, the general “does it draw you in and keep you wanting to know what happens next,” it’s average to above average for its genre.
One thing that detracts from it a bit for me is a key scene around the middle of the movie that doesn’t add up. After a domestic dispute, two characters flee the house of a person who’s either dead or at least very badly beaten, they’re not sure.
But why exactly are they fleeing? Are they running from him, in case he’s still alive and will seek revenge? If so, why not stay and make sure he’s dead?
Or is it the police they fear? Are they fleeing the scene of what they think is likely a murder so they won’t be arrested? That doesn’t make much sense either, because they make no attempt to hide the body or take it with them (or, again, to even make sure he’s dead).
But then they don’t go very far at all anyway, and make no significant effort to hide. They’re maybe “laying low” in a very minor way, but that’s about it. Aren’t they concerned the police will eventually find the body in their abandoned house and maybe want to ask them some questions? Have they lost their concern (if that was ever the issue) that he’s still alive and will come after them?
So I don’t get that. Maybe there’s no more explanation than that they needed these characters to be close by and accessible for the rest of the story, and it’s just sloppy filmmaking.
On the other hand, one factor that raises Blood and Wine above the norm for this kind of movie is that Nicholson and Caine are very good in their performances. Perhaps my reaction is colored by the fact that I know they’re big name actors and I expect them to be a treat to watch–it’s hard to abstract from that and know how I’d react to identical performances by two complete unknowns–but whenever one or especially both are on the screen, one instinctively sits up and pays more attention. There’s a certain enjoyable smoothness and professionalism to how they embody these shady characters.
Jennifer Lopez, as a nanny and love interest of Nicholson, is terrific to look at, but is not a particularly strong or believable character. As a nanny, it seems like she should be more low class or plain or humble or some combination thereof; instead she comes across like a high class call girl or movie star.
But hot regardless, so I’m not going to complain.
This movie is nothing special; as I say, the closest it comes to being special is in the performances of Nicholson and Caine. But it’s acceptable for what it is. For someone who’s really into the sultry crime drama genre, it’s engaging enough and skillfully enough done to probably be worth giving a shot.