Film Scouts Reviews

"Heaven's Prisoners"

by Leslie Rigoulot

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"Heaven's Prisoners" may have been James Lee Burke's best-selling mystery novel, but under Phil Joanou's plodding direction, this New Orleans tale is no Mardi Gras. At two hours and thirteen minutes, this film mostly features Alec Baldwin painfully trying to mouth his lines in New Orleans-speak. You do get to see Teri Hatcher naked. That woke up the guys who were starting to doze off through the endless nonsense that passed for plot.

As an ex-cop and recovering alcoholic, Baldwin is pulled back into the maelstrom after he and his wife, Kelly Lynch, rescue a little girl from a sinking airplane. But no one can rescue this sinking film or its misbegotten chartacters.

Joanou sees "Heaven's Prisoners" as character-driven. At least that's what the press kits says. No wonder: it was Baldwin who optioned Burke's novel with himself in mind. Baldwin has made a career on-screen and off as the man who just can't resist a nearby adrenaline rush. So when he isn't talking, he does cut a credible action figure. And Eric Roberts, as the gangster Bubba Rocque, at least is believable.

I know it is popular to play against type; Elizabeth Shue reversed course brilliantly in "Leaving Las Vegas". A good gambit if it works. But to cast the women's parts in "Heaven's Prisoners", they threw darts at the wall. Wacko Kelly Lynch is the strong wife? Squeaky clean Mary Stuart Masterson is the stripper?? And "Lois and Clark's" Teri Hatcher is the femme fatale???

You can't hang the sleep-inducing pace on the cast, however. But you might be tempted to take Joanu out to the plane and trade him for the kid.

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