The perfect companion piece to Performance (1970), Donald Cammell’s swan song is an edgy unpredictable pulp noir centred around crime, money, sex, power games, and four outstanding acting performances.
Bruno (Christopher Walken), the world’s most notorious money-launderer, is being set up for a sting by undercover agent Tony (Steven Bauer) posing as his chauffeur. When Alex (Anne Heche), an international banker moonlighting as a call girl enters Bruno’s world, both Bruno and Tony see opportunity - as does Bruno’s estranged wife Virgina (Joan Chen). Masquerading as a crime thriller, Cammell’s final film shifts unpredictably between hard-bitten drama, sensuous lesbian love story, and absurd black comedy, to deliver an incendiary mix of mind games, sexual liaisons, and ever shifting loyalties as the four characters navigate an increasingly complex and irrelevant plot. The performances, particularly Walken’s as the nervy, eccentric Bruno are larger than life, and Heche, the emotional centre of the film, is outstanding as the intermittently tough, vulnerable, and uncertain Alex. Upon its UK release in June 2000, The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw wrote, “an original and exhilarating thriller, capriciously intelligent, with experimentalism and verve…an arresting work from an important and distinctive director.”
Re-edited against his wishes by its American producers Cammell removed his name from the project and shortly after committed suicide, but a posthumous “director’s cut” adding more than twenty minutes of material and restoring Cammell’s original vision was produced by Tartan Films in the UK to enthusiastic reviews. Thought to be lost, two 35mm prints of this director’s cut were recently uncovered, and this screening – the first for more than two decades – is from one of these two surviving prints.
Special thanks to The Cinema Museum.