Combustible Celluloid
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With: David Caruso, Linda Fiorentino, Chazz Palminteri, Richard Crenna, Michael Biehn, Donna Murphy, Ken King, Holt McCallany, David Hunt, Angie Everhart, Kevin Tighe, Robin Thomas
Written by: Joe Eszterhas
Directed by: William Friedkin
MPAA Rating: R for grisly afterviews of murder victims, violence, language and strong scenes of aberrant sexuality
Running Time: 95
Date: 09/01/1995

Jade (1995)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Saving Chase

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

After seeing William Friedkin's Jade back in 1995, I wrote a snarky review for a little 'zine, panning it much like most of the mainstream press had done. Most of the review was aimed at stopping the seemingly unstoppable screenwriter Joe Eszterhas, who was paid more than nearly any other screenwriter to scribble dialogue and situations that were worse than nearly any other screenwriter's. (His Showgirls had been released a month earlier, to much the same response.) At the same time, I praised the movie's great San Francisco Chinatown chase scene, which, I assumed, was "probably the only thing in the movie that Eszterhas didn't write."

Years later, I have interviewed both Friedkin and Eszterhas and liked them both immensely. I discovered interesting consistencies in both their work that continues to fascinate me. Today we know that Friedkin did indeed rewrite great portions of the script, though not enough to erase Eszterhas' voice. And Showgirls has become a cult favorite among audiences who are able to appreciate the odd, unique quality of its dialogue and characters. But poor Jade has remained banished to movie purgatory. Seeing it again now, on a new Blu-Ray release, reveals that it's not nearly as bad as the reviews made it sound in 1995, but also that it's not really a masterpiece. Rather, it's a good, solid thriller with some terrific touches by Friedkin and some truly bizarre ones by Eszterhas.

David Caruso stars as David Corelli, a San Francisco assistant district attorney who is assigned to investigate the murder of a millionaire art collector. The last person to see the victim alive is Trina Gavin (Linda Fiorentino), who is married to high-powered lawyer Matt Gavin (Chazz Palminteri). The Gavins happen to be David's best friends, and worse, he's in love with Trina. His investigation leads to a prostitution ring involving the governor himself, and one of the blurry photographs shows a woman that looks strikingly like Trina. Is Trina really the mysterious (and gifted) prostitute known as "Jade"? David must sort through the case and his own feelings to discover the truth.

As with most Eszterhas scripts, Trina is duplicitous and two-faced, but nothing is proven (just in case the producers want to change the ending). There's a preoccupation with women using sex as power, as well as with lesbian sex. But Friedkin brings some amazing things to the table, as my friend Bob Stephens pointed out in his lone defense of the movie. There are lots of masks, both literal and emotional, on display, and Friedkin's use of cutting and shots of the city serve as a kind of eerie dark spirit hovering over the proceedings. Indeed, it's probably difficult for most Americans to work through the writing to get to the great visual ideas, but they're there. It's a movie that deserves a second shot.

Lionsgate released this Paramount feature to Blu-Ray in 2010. Thankfully, unlike the DVD release, it's in widescreen. But unfortunately, it does not come in Friedkin's 107-minute director's cut and does not contain a director's commentary track. Moreover, the Blu-Ray picture is only intermittently stunning; it often looks soft. The only extra is a trailer.

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