Oliver Stone has developed an interesting—if not completely intrusive—way of telling his stories. Each scene is interwoven with quick jump-cuts that illuminate the process much like Post-It notes stuck on a thesis paper. In Stone's Arizona, it isn't just hot, it's dog-dyingly, vulture-circling, filthy sweat-pouringly hot, each parenthetical expression crafted with loving visual detail that is gone as soon as it appears. A lot like "Natural Born Killers" in visual language, "U-Turn" constantly reminds his audience that Stone's attention span is probably even shorter than yours. Sean Penn plays Bobby Cooper, an absolute screw-up of a man who bursts a radiator hose outside the town of Superior, Arizona—a place with more hatred, surrealism, and lunacy than the freak tents at the State Fair. When the local mechanic (played with baroque gusto by Billy Bob Thornton) "fixes" Cooper's car to the tune of $200 needless dollars, it sets into motion a desperate need for money, which involves a disgusting real estate dealer (Nick Nolte) who wants his beautiful young Indian wife (Jennifer Lopez) killed for the insurance money. It doesn't help that the gamblers who cut off two of Cooper's fingers are driving to Superior to cut off the rest of them. Throw in a disgruntled sheriff (the always-awesome Powers Boothe) and a walking white stick of libido (Claire Danes), and Cooper will be genuinely lucky to survive the afternoon.
Stone turns away from the usual political philosophizing and government paranoia to craft a peculiar paranoia of his own; in this world, people aren't evil, just places. The heat does things to a place—so hot that the moral Indian (always an Oliver Stone staple) says that he's "seen a scorpion sting itself to death." Beautifully shot by a master craftsman, it's still a lot to stomach, the dread of the movie wafting over you like a bad dream. With a bloody and violent conclusion, the question to ask yourself about movie like "U-Turn" is not how much you like it, but how much you can stand.
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