Idiotic 'Jade' is sex-and-car-chase male fantasy

October 13, 1995|By STEPHEN HUNTER | STEPHEN HUNTER,SUN FILM CRITIC

Please, what have we done to deserve another Joe Eszterhas movie? OK, we acquitted O.J.

Arriving in the form of national penance less than four weeks after the last Joe Eszterhas disgrace, "Showgirls," here's "Jade," from that smokin' Eszterhas pen, as directed in the highest "French Connection" style by William Friedkin. Imagine a psycho-sexual thriller written by a man who hates and fears women, and directed by a man who loves to wreck cars, and you have an idea of the recondite pleasures of this idiotic film.

Moony David Caruso plays San Francisco Assistant DA David Corelli, who's long had a crush on a college chum's beautiful wife, Trina Gavin, played by Linda Fiorentino. It doesn't help that the college chum is not only still alive but is a powerful lawyer himself, named Matt Gavin, or that he's played with loud, sluggish thickness by Chazz Palminteri.

But the movie opens, as do all Eszterhas projects with the exceptions of the ones about naked women, with a brutal, gory murder. In this case, a powerful millionaire and noted libertine has been turned into road kill in his fun room while wearing a fertility mask. Someone has worked on him with a ceremonial African ax. (It's that kind of movie.)

It quickly turns out that the Fiorentino character had visited him that afternoon. Political complications ensue: In the dead man's safe are found pictures of the governor (Richard Crenna, also thuggish) with a nubile prostitute. The prostitute leads the investigators to the millionaire's sex house on the coast, where more hidden cameras prove that . . . Trina was one of the women who went there to have sex.

Now really, only a truely twisted male puppy could come up with a conceit like this one. In her public life, Trina is a Ph.D. in psychology, specializing in dysfunction in the workplace. She is socially prominent and the wife of a powerful lawyer. But then she goes into some kind of sex trance (I am not making this up) and becomes "Jade," a wildly perverse creature of the darkest id who likes her sex kinkier than DNA double helixes. Now, has this ever happened? Anywhere in history? I mean, in reality?

Where it does occur is the male sexual imagination. In fact, the theme of the respectable woman with the insatiable and mega-bent sex life is an epic male fantasy and appears in venues as diverse as X-rated vids, Playboy cartoons, Luis Bunuel films and Joe Eszterhas scripts. It's ugly gibberish.

From that awful starting point, what follows is densely plotted, overwrought nonsense that doesn't even have the sense to use Fiorentino's tough-gal seductress persona to its best advantage. never see the cunning woman who stole "The Last Seduction." Instead, our interests are focused on poor Caruso, playing a character almost identical to the one in "NYPD Blue" -- the "sensitive detective" who suffers for the world and yet wears XTC dark Italian sport shirts to work instead of the attorney's de rigueur suit and tie. Who does he think he is, Bullitt?

And speaking of Bullitt, Friedkin does rise to the challenge of the visual possibilities of San Francisco (as did Peter Yates in "Bullitt" and he himself in "The French Connection") and unleashes the movie's best sequence, a car chase through downtown Frisco. This time, instead of slaloming in and out between el buttresses, a la "Connection," Friedkin runs his rampaging autos through a Chinatown parade.

Friedkin still has it: The car chase is the best thing in the movie, though so unconnected to the plot it could have been added without changing Eszterhas' script a whit. But, that excitement over, the movie ultimately self-destructs in the matter of its own ending. I hate it when seemingly complex mysteries are wrapped up in about 10 seconds of difficult-to-digest synopsis. It makes you think that what came before wasn't worth it. And guess what? Duh, it wasn't.

"Jade"

:. Starring Linda Fiorentino and David Caruso

Directed by William Friedkin

Released by Paramount

Rated R (sexual content, gore)

... **

5/8

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