'Jacob's Ladder' suffers from its confusion

Movies

November 02, 1990|By Lou Cedrone

''Jacob's Ladder'' takes a long time getting to the point, and when it does, there isn't that much to it.

Some people are going to be very confused by this film. It does not, as they say, give anyone quarter. You might say it is a work movie.

Adrian Lyne (''Fatal Attraction'') directed the film, which plays, at times, like a chapter in the ''Friday the 13th'' series.

That should come as no surprise. The silliest thing about ''Fatal Attraction'' was the finish, one in which Glenn Close went down for the count then resurged from that bathtub, as villains do in horror films, to give Michael Douglas a bit more trouble.

''Jacob's Ladder'' is not quite so sleazy as the ''Friday the 13th'' movies, but from time to time it gets closer than necessary. There are long shots in which a hospital gurney is wheeled through an area littered with dismembered limbs, and there are the needles entering the flesh. We also have stabbings.

Well, maybe this will get it out of the director's system. Maybe he'll give us less blood and fewer lacerations in his next film.

Tim Robbins stars in ''Jacob's Ladder,'' in which a number of Biblical references are made. Robbins plays a Vietnam soldier who is seemingly killed in action when he is bayonetted. We can't be sure, however, because, from there on, Jacob Singer (Robbins) travels a landscape that seems hallucinatory more than real.

That's the way the film plays most of the time, as a hallucinatory passage. It seems to be alternating between two worlds, with characters from one invading the other.

We can't discuss the ending. We can't really say too much about the film without giving too much away. All we can say is that you may be among those who saw the preview screening and came out of the theater, saying, ''What was that all about?''

Actually, it isn't that difficult to interpret. Some strings may remain untied, but most of the film hangs together, not enough to satisfy all of us but certainly enough to bring all this seeming meaninglessness to a close.

Robbins does extremely well as the confused, grieving veteran, and the ending is rather touching. Bruce Joel Rubin, who did the script for ''Ghost,'' did the script for ''Jacob's Ladder.'' Both films are about death, but ''Ghost'' has far more humor.

''Jacob's Ladder''

** A Vietnam vet, seemingly dead on the battlefield, returns to a strange and eerie world.

CAST: Tim Robbins, Elizabeth Pena, Danny Aiello

DIRECTOR: Adrian Lyne

RATING: R (language, violence)

RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes

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