Kalifornia (1993) Directed by Dominic Sena
a jpoc movie review
Serial Killer Slayfest.
Main Cast
Brad Pitt Early Grayce
Juliette Lewis Adele Corners
David Duchovny Brian Kessler
Michelle Forbes Carrie Laughlin
My Rating & viewing notes
Four out of ten.

I bought this movie on tape from the bargain bin at HMV in Cambridge in 2001.

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The jpoc review
Movies in the serial killer genre need strong, engaging characters if they are to amount to more than just a sequence of murders. Kalifornia gets close but in the end it falls on the wrong side of the line.

Brian Kessler (David Duchovny) is an aspiring writer and he plans to write a book about serial killers based on visits to the sites of their killings. He also wants to move to California with his girlfriend Carrie Laughlin (Michelle Forbes) who is an aspiring photographer and will take the photos needed to illustrate the book. The only problem is that they do not have the money to do this. When Kessler gets a book deal for his proposal, they decide that this will be their cue to go but they are still short of money for the trip so they advertise for somebody to share the ride and pay half of the fuel costs.

Early Grayce (Brad Pitt ) and his girlfriend Adele Corners (Juliette Lewis) reply to the ad and the four set off for California. What Brian and Carrie do not know is that Early is already a murderer and as they progress to their destination, he continues to kill. At first, his three travelling companions are unaware of his activities but finally even the simple minded Adele comes to see what is going on and Early then turns his murderous attention to his companions.

Everyone, other than the four main characters is incidental, entering the movie in order to be slain or to provide some small step forward for the plot. That makes the film lean heavily on the main cast and that is where the audience is let down. Juliette Lewis does an acceptable job as the pretty but dim girlfriend but in the end, her character is not one to create any degree of audience sympathy. Duchovny and Forbes have the chance to do better as their characters should be a lot fuller than Lewis's. They don't rise to the occasion though and so their characters just do not appeal. Unfortunately, in this type of movie, if the audience doesn't get to care whether the potential victims live or die, there is no real tension left. That just leaves Brad Pitt who, while throwing himself into the role with a great deal of enthusiasm, doesn't quite convince us of the character.

It would be wrong to put all of the blame on the actors though as the script does not give them as much scope as they would need were they to do a better job. Perhaps one less killing scene and a little more time on character and mood development would have paid off. Other that that the movie is fast paced and the action will hold an audience's attention.

While it is worth watching if you are not put off by large amounts of blood, this movie amounts to nothing more than a couple of hours of violent escapism.

If this is your type of movie then you have probably already seen "Natural Born Killers" but you might also like to get hold of a copy of Badlands which is just as fresh today as when it first came out.