1993 - R - 118 Mins.
|Director: Dominic Sena
|Producer: Steve Golin
|Written By: Stephen Levy, Tim Metcalfe
|Starring: Brad Pitt, David Duchovny, Juliette Lewis, Michelle Forbes
|Review by: Harrison Cheung
An indie film that was too bleak for mainstream audiences but a surprise cult hit with the David Duchovny Estrogen Parade, ‘Kalifornia’ is a stylish murder mystery that plays like a very explicit episode of the ‘X-Files.’
Trust No One in your backseat
Brad Pitt, David Duchovny and Juliette Lewis star in this noirish story about Brian (Duchovny), a journalist writing a book about serial killers, and his photographer girlfriend Carrie (Star Trek’s Michelle Forbes), who decide to take a cross-country road trip to photograph the sites of famous serial killings on their way to California.
To share the gas costs of their guzzling 1960s Cadillac convertible, they advertise a ‘ride share’ and end up with the ultimate in po-white-trash, Early (Pitt) and Adele (Lewis). Early and Adele have dreams of going Hollywood but at the beginning of the film, we’re shown that Early has a murderous, violent streak. So what could be more bizarre for Brian than to do his serial killer road trip with an actual serial killer along for the ride?
There’s a lot of black humor in ‘Kalifornia,’ though much of the laughs come from the odd couple pairing, stuck together in the car. Imagine if the cast from ‘Queer Eye’ was stuck with the hosts from ‘The Man Show’ and you’ll get an idea of some of the hissy fits between the two very different couples. And when Pitt’s Early shows some sexual interest in Carrie, she is at first repulsed but slowly intrigued. There’s a pivotal scene when Carrie accidentally comes across a particularly violent and awkwardly positioned coupling between Early and Adele – at first disgusted, Carrie nevertheless takes out her camera and snaps a few shots. Morbid fascination is the driving theme – why else would Brian want to write a book about understanding serial killers?
Directed by Dominic Sena, who went on to direct ‘Swordfish’, ‘Kalifornia’ is very entertaining though not for the squeamish. Great casting – Duchovny and Forbes are perfect as the hip, metrosexual couple, very fashionable in their black gear and androgynous coiffure. Pitt and Lewis get the showier roles. Bearded and greasy, Pitt is transformed from his movie star looks to a filthy hobo. It’s Pitt’s most impressive performance to date. And Lewis happily plays simple-minded, abused girlfriend who refuses to recognize that Early could be a murderer.
Released in 1993, ‘Kalifornia’ did the film festival circuit thing and seemed to be another hyper-violent noir in the footsteps of ‘Reservoir Dogs.’ But ‘Kalifornia’ was smartly written, complimenting Duchovny’s dry delivery so that it makes the movie all the more like an extended X-Files episode. We have Duchovny’s narration, the same title treatments, and a soundtrack that seems to mirror Mark Snow’s X-Files moodiness.
The X-Files began its successful run in 1993 and ended in 2001 so anyone pining for an X-Files fix with an extra dose of violence, sex and nudity, head to ‘Kalifornia.’