A severed hand and a bra at the city dump: These are the clues police sergeant John Berlin (Andy Garcia) discovers on his first morning on the job in Eureka, Calif. And though Berlin has been lured from Los Angeles to the Northern California countryside by his old partner (Lance Henriksen) for a taste of the quiet life, he finds himself on the trail of a serial killer whose victims have all been female, blind, and dubbed with the case name ”Jennifer.” Factor in the lack of a corpse and his colleagues’ unwillingness to believe the evidence is part of a serial spree, and you’ve got yourself one tough career relocation.
”There are moments of great tension,” says Garcia of his quest to prevent Uma Thurman from becoming Jennifer Nine. ”It’s not a violent picture, not gratuitous at all. It’s a thinking man’s thriller.” Both he and Henriksen say the screenplay, by Bruce Robinson (The Killing Fields), is one of the best they’ve read (Robinson also directed Jennifer Eight). ”We all became obsessed with making Bruce’s vision come true,” says Henriksen of the film’s impressive cast, including John Malkovich as an FBI agent and Kathy Baker as Henriksen’s wife.
”It was a total conspiracy.” ”I’m proud of it because it deals in a genre that’s easily exploited by American movies nowadays,” Garcia says. ”And everything is handled with a very delicate touch.” That subtlety extends to his love scenes with principal witness and potential victim Thurman (”I didn’t take my shirt off, it was 20 degrees,” Garcia adds). But, he insists, romance fans won’t be disappointed. ”It’s very genuine. More like life and less like the movies.” (Paramount)
In 1972, a planeful of Uruguayan rugby players crash-landed in the frozen Andes. By the time they were rescued 10 weeks later, they had resorted to cannibalism to survive. Bringing this true story to the screen was no picnic either. Filming took place on the 9,500-foot-high Delphine glacier in British Columbia. The cast was fattened up during rehearsals so they could convincingly lose 10-15 pounds each on a low-fat diet during the 15-week shoot. One of the real-life survivors, Nando Parrado (played by Ethan Hawke), served as technical adviser, and he faced the toughest assignment. ”He was unconscious for the first days (after the crash),” says director Frank Marshall (Arachnophobia). ”So when we were shooting those scenes where they were removing his mother’s body and his sister was dying, it was pretty emotional. He was seeing things he had never seen before.” (Touchstone)
Die Hard on a plane: Wesley Snipes stars as John Cutter, a security expert who takes a break from his job only to wind up on the same flight as a gang of terrorists. ”One thing that takes it a step further than Die Hard is that Cutter has hand-to-hand combat with just about all of the villains,” says director Kevin Hooks (Strictly Business). Snipes enjoyed showcasing his 14 years of martial-arts training, and there was another, unexpected reward. ”It hides some of my nervousness,” he says. (Warner Bros.)
Scent of a Woman
In what may be the season’s most awkwardly titled film, Al Pacino plays Frank Slade, a blind, embittered ex-Army man left by his niece and her family in the care of a 17-year- old (Chris O’Donnell) over Thanksgiving weekend. Slade drags his baby-sitter to New York City, aiming to surprise his brother’s family for the holiday. Sounds like a comedy, right? It’s not. “It’s the Thanksgiving Dinner from Hell,” says director Martin Brest (Beverly Hills Cop), who calls Scent his first grown-up movie.
“When you’re doing scenes that are disturbing, it’s not fun; it’s very satisfying and challenging, but it takes the gruesomeness of filmmaking and compounds it.” Pacino’s dark performance was everything Brest hoped for: “Originally I was worried, because ) one of Al’s great tools is his eyes-they suck an audience into his soul. I was scared that we were taking that away, because Slade can’t make eye contact. But there are a few actors God speaks through when they’re really cooking, and Al’s one of those guys.” (Universal)
House of Cards
It’s almost like a close encounter between a mother and a daughter,” says writer-director Michael Lessac. Kathleen Turner plays a widow trying to bring her 6-year-old daughter (Asha Menina) back from a silent world into which she has mysteriously withdrawn. The parent was originally a father, but Lessac rewrote it after seeing Turner, a friend, with her own 4-year-old daughter, Rachel. “She’s always played the femme fatale,” he says. “In this one, she just lets herself be a mother.” (Twentieth Century Fox)
Also coming in November
Intervista, Federico Fellini’s homage to filmmaking and to Italy’s Cinecitta studios; Tous Les Matins Du Monde, the story of a 17th-century French court musician and his mentor, starring Gerard Depardieu and his son Guillaume; Sniper, with Tom Berenger as a Marine in the Panamanian jungle.