Whatever happened to director John McNaughton? Not since "Wild Things" have I heard his name mentioned. Apparently he is still making stuff but seems to have fallen into T.V. obscurity despite showing some early potential.
This, his follow up to the brutal and violent "Henry: Portrait of a serial killer" follows the story of shy and retiring police detective Wayne Dobie (Robert DeNiro), ironically nicknamed "Mad Dog" due to his gentle nature and lack of machismo. By chance one evening, during a liquor store hold-up, Wayne saves the life of Frank Milo (Bill Murray), who it later transpires is a local influential gangster. As a form of gratitude Milo sends a gift to Wayne in the shape of Glory (Uma Thurman) for Wayne to have "fun" with for a week. After reluctantly accepting, Wayne finds himself falling in love and determined to save Glory from the control and ownership of Milo.
Director McNaughton begins this film with excellent use of black and white bursting into colour with the smoke of a crack-pipe during a drug deal. With this edgy beginning it looks like we will be treated to another gritty urban tale like his previous film. However, as the story progresses it falls into romantic comedy territory, which doesn't really gel with some genuinely dangerous situations and characters. The shift in tone doesn't really work and the film can't seem to decide what it wants to be. There's also an uncomfortable message running through it, of glorifying macho behaviour. DeNiro's character is never really accepted until he displays his macho potential and all the other male characters walk around with there chests puffed out and their fists clenched, leaving the females nothing more than cowering damsels in distress in need of saving. This is all a bit of a shame really, as the performances are excellent. DeNiro and Murray could easily have been cast in each others roles to good effect but by being cast against type it keeps them very interesting to watch. David Caruso is also brilliant, reprising his confident "NYPD Blue" type policeman.
These fantastic performances are what make this film a standout and worthwhile. Its hard to be overly satisfied with its different tones and uneasy balance with humour and while not entirely successful, it is at least ambitious and does things differently.