As a Southern veteran of the Korean War who goes temporarily insane and gets himself confined to an abusively backward ’50s mental institution, Gary Oldman — the brilliant British actor from Sid & Nancy — does an ace impersonation of a drawling American redneck.
Unfortunately, most of Chattahoochee is awful. A kind of white-trash Snake Pit, this lurid yet dramatically inert film is about how Oldman’s character endures every imaginable form of squalor and cruelty and ends up becoming the hippie Christ of the psycho ward.
The film’s grungy relentlessness makes its point, I suppose. Yet Chattahoochee is so sluggishly written and directed that the filmmakers end up developing no real attitude toward their characters or setting; all they do is drive home the obvious and undebatable notion that mental patients should be treated humanely. As Oldman’s loony-bin cohort, Dennis Hopper — for reasons I can’t begin to fathom — gives his least crazy performance in several years. For once, he’s understated and touching.