Reasons why some movies get crucified by critics might not always have something to do with their quality. Keys to Tulsa, 1997 thriller directed by Leslie Greif, could have easily brought scorn of the critics on itself by using one interesting detail in its plot - profession of its protagonist. Richter Boudreau (played by Eric Stoltz) is spoiled child of Cynthia Boudreau (played by Mary Tyler Moore), one of Tulsa's most influential women. Richter works as local newspaper's film critic, but doesn't take the job very seriously, preferring booze and drugs to watching films. After a while he loses job and his mother is unwilling to bail him out. He meets his school friend Vicky (played by Deborah Kara Unger), now married to Ronnie Stover (played by James Spader), local drug dealer and loan shark. Richter owes some money to Ronnie, so he gets drawn into his blackmailing scheme directed towards Keith Michaels (played by Michael Rooker), Vicky's rich brother. Keith apparently murdered a prostitute and stripper named Cherry (played by Joanna Going) is the witness to the crime.
Harley Peyton's script, based on the novel by Brian Fair Berkey, doesn't provide Keys to Tulsa with particularly original plot; good connoisseurs of film noir won't have many problems in connecting the dots. On the other hand, Keys to Tulsa benefits from somewhat unusual setting (mid-Western town) and characters. Thanks to critical depiction of Tulsa upper classes this film is at times closer to social drama than to standard neo-noir thriller. The acting in the film is good - unburdened with stars and with few former Hollywood heavyweights (like late James Coburn) in small roles, Keys to Tulsa is another opportunity for actors like Eric Stoltz, James Spader, Michael Rooker and Deborah Kara Unger to show how they can carry low budget films. Unfortunately, Joanna Going doesn't do particularly good job in her stereotypical role of stripper. But when it is all said and done, Keys to Tulsa should nevertheless be recommended as a solid Tarantinoesque piece, ins spite of all the critics who somehow felt offended by the portrayal of their fictional colleague.
RATING: 5/10 (++)
(Note: The text in its original form was posted in Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.films.reviews on September 17th 2003)
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