US, 1997, 97 minutes, Colour.
Matt Dillon, Faye Dunaway, William Fichtner, Gary Sinise, Viggo Mortensen, Joe Mantegna, Skeet, Ulrich, John Spencer, M. Emmett Welsh.
Directed by Kevin Spacey.
One has to listen carefully to pick up the story told about the albino alligator which, in Louisiana (this is a New Orleans story), is offered as a sacrifice for the safety of others. This allegorical title is used for actor Kevin Spacey's directorial debut. Spacey has shown himself a versatile actor, but especially playing villains as in Consenting Adults, but best in his Oscar winning performance in The Usual Suspects and in Seven. He has chosen a crime thriller and siege as his first film.
While shot in widescreen, this is an interior piece, most of the action taking place in a basement bar. A robbery goes wrong and the criminals detour to a bar only to find that the police who, they think, are chasing them, are in fact after someone else. This is a film of character more than action and the cast is very good indeed, led by Matt Dillon in one of his best roles. Gary Sinise is his brother and Faye Dunawaye works in the bar. Audiences expecting a shoot-em-up will find this only briefly. It might be described as an `art-house thriller'.
1. The title, the explanation, intervention and sacrifice?
2. New Orleans, the city, streets, the warehouse, the chase and crash, the interiors? Television programs from outside? The musical score?
3. The set-up, the difficulties, taking the car, the men, the chase, the crash, hiding, the money, the trio in the car, Milo and his being injured? Taking refuge in the bar? The plan?
4. The bar in the basement, claustrophobic, Dova as leader, Milo his brother, Law and his driving, participating in the plan? His brutality and violence? Milo and his wounds, his needs? The patrons, the set-up in the bar, the hostage situation?
5. Dino, the owner, his manner with the intruders, talking, defying them, their brutal attack, his death?
6. Janet, continually confronting Dova, the challenge? Daniel, quiet and in the background, wanting to be cooperative, with Janet, her being his mother, her wanting to protect him? John, the patron, drinking, his being shot?
7. Guy, sitting quietly in the bar, bespectacled, his briefcase, not saying much, his reactions, the TV information about who he was, gun purchase, the agents after him, the police siege really for him rather than for the trio, his lies, the attack on him, his offering to help, sitting at the table, standing up to confront the agents, his death?
8. The atmosphere of tension, as in such films as The Petrified Forest? Contrived, the long takes on the faces of the individuals, their speaking, their silences? Violence and deaths?
9. The television, the continued information?
10. The agent outside, the large squad, holding off, the assistant and the top agent controlling him? Hearing the shots, going into the bar?
11. Law, his continued brutality, tough stances, defiance, obeying Dova? His finally being killed?
12. Milo and Dova’s promise, on their mother? Keeping to the plan, his wounds, his not wanting killing, slitting his wrists, the effect on Dova?
13. The police and the agents rescuing the hostages, Janet and Daniel surviving, the threat that they should kill Jack, his death? The irony that Dova should be considered one of the hostages being saved? And the audience left with that?
14. The film as a psychodrama with a gangster, police and brutal setting?