Minnie Driver, James Spader. An explorer stops at nothing to find the cache of diamonds her parents where searching for, but this scheming film ends with a twist. 2000/color/97 min/R.
Minnie Driver produces and stars in this sometimes unusual but largely familiar and undercooked crime thriller, a project seemingly aimed at hardening her good-girl image with a touch of the femme fatale. She plays Trina, the surviving daughter of a couple who spent their lives searching the Mexican desert for a fortune in lost diamonds. What a shock when a pair of escaped convicts (James Spader, chewing on an accent that could make him Ratso Rizzo's long-lost son, and Josh Brolin) stumble onto her camp, dragging the treasure behind them. Completely obsessed with the diamonds, she turns ruthless in her pursuit--these boys are rank amateurs next to Driver's hardened schemer. Director-cowriter Christian Ford carves the film out of sharp, sun-blasted colors that seem to bleach out over the course of the film, but the script's blatant echoes of Treasure of the Sierra Madre
(including characters named after author Frank Norris and Greed
protagonist McTeague) never allow the film to establish its own identity. Brolin turns in a fine performance as a holy innocent on the wrong path, and Stuart Wilson is excellent as the narrator and Trina's desert-rat protector, an ambiguous, dangerous figure always on the periphery of the story. The story concludes in a clever climax of dark irony, but the rest of the film is less satisfying--not quite predictable but never very surprising. --Sean Axmaker