Joe Eszterhas' formulaic "Jade" is no precious gem

By Ken Tucker
Updated October 27, 1995 at 04:00 AM EDT
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  • Movie

It’s being marketed as a feature film entitled Jade (Paramount, R), but don’t be fooled: This is really more like a mediocre episode of NYPD Blue with some naughty bits thrown in. Once Bluer David Caruso, gaunt and stricken from the box office failure of a better movie, Kiss of Death, stars here as an assistant district attorney in San Francisco investigating the murder of an art-dealing socialite.

This movie was written by Showgirls man Joe Eszterhas, which ups the pubic-hair quotient in Jade astronomically right from the get-go — in fact, the endlessly resourceful Eszterhas has managed to make the little devils a central clue in Jade, as opposed to the wardrobe role they played in Showgirls.

Fertility masks and ornately designed axes are also on Eszterhas’ probing mind this time out — the victim was wearing one, the killer wielding the other. Of course, no opus by this scriptomaniac would be complete without a couple of sexually aggressive babes, and so Linda Fiorentino plays the ideal Eszterhas occupational combo, a psychologist/hooker, and Angie Everhart’s vague, pointless character exists primarily to get killed shortly after delivering the crucial Eszterhasian line ”I’m into women, mostly.”

Grappling with the screenwriter’s perfervid fantasies is director William Friedkin, who makes the camera swoop and dive in a Hitchcocky way. But he can’t do much with the coincidence-crippled plot, which also features Chazz Palminteri as Caruso’s close buddy, who’s married to Fiorentino, who in turn was once Caruso’s lover and who is now suspected of the crime. Both Palminteri and Fiorentino are wasted here, but at least Palminteri is central to the story. Fiorentino, the ostensible ”Jade” of the title, is just decorative jewelry — she isn’t permitted to display any of the wry sexiness she radiated in The Last Seduction. Instead, she’s around to illustrate an abstract concept: woman as predatory force of nature. She’d have been more credible as a tiger in a National Geographic TV special.

The last thing one should feel for a movie hero is pity, yet that’s just what Caruso may inspire in a viewer. In the midst of this tawdry scenario, Friedkin leaves Caruso to do a pale imitation of his NYPD protagonist, John Kelly. Here, as David Corelli, the actor relies on the same tricks ‘n’ tics: the steady, downward gaze at people he likes; the steady, upward sneer at people he doesn’t.

There’s almost no moment in Jade that won’t remind you of another movie or TV show. The car chases up and down the hills of San Francisco are scenes done more excitingly 27 years ago in Bullitt; Fiorentino’s interrogation in a roomful of lawmen looks like a Basic Instinct parody; and the noisy prowl through Chinatown will remind you of the 1985 Mickey Rourke thriller Year of the Dragon — and if there’s one thing I don’t like being reminded of while watching a movie, it’s Mickey Rourke. But by the time Jade offered its final limp twist, I’d have settled for Barfly outtakes. D

Jade

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  • Movie
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director
  • William Friedkin

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