Lee Daniels’ latest movie is dark. Desperately, comically, ridiculously dark. It takes place in Florida, 1969, which is, apparently, the sweatiest place on earth. Two reporters try to fight their way through the clammy sheen to discover whether a cop-killing death row prisoner (John Cusack) has been wrongly accused. They hook up with a brassy femme fatale, who has a thing for incarcerated prisoners, who says she can help prove his innocence.
Daniels skillfully and habitually ignores the accepted boundaries of common decency; one scene involving a jellyfish and Nicole Kidman will stay with you to the grave. The vulgarity is kept in check (just about) through some very adept directing. Daniels somehow combines the beauty of A Single Man, the tension of David Fincher’s Zodiac and the red-neck horror of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, dousing the whole affair in a thick squadge of squalid black humour.
It is gripping, hilarious and impossibly depressing. Be warned: you will want to take a long shower when it’s finished.
First published in City A.M.