Serial Killer Wins Lottery; Deadhead Worships Preacher: Movies

Carl used to worship Jerry Garcia. Now he’s a Jesus freak.

The Deadhead turned true believer played by Greg Kinnear in “Salvation Boulevard” is a disciple of charismatic megachurch preacher Dan Day (Pierce Brosnan). When Day accidentally shoots an atheist professor (Ed Harris) and tries to blame it on Carl, mayhem ensues.

The participants include a Mexican blackmailer, Carl’s devout wife (Jennifer Connelly), Day’s bumbling henchman (Jim Gaffigan) and Honey (Marisa Tomei), a free-spirited security guard who rekindles Carl’s love for the Dead.

George Ratliff’s satire, based on a novel by Larry Beinhart, casts a jaundiced eye on extremists of all stripes.

Brosnan and Connelly are too sophisticated for their backwater characters and it’s hard to believe that Kinnear’s bland Carl was ever a Deadhead. Only the wonderfully zany Tomei looks comfortable in this squirm-inducing debacle.

“Salvation Boulevard,” from IFC Films, is playing in New York and Los Angeles. Rating: *1/2

‘Life, Above All’

Life, Above All” turns a cosmic issue -- the devastation AIDS has wreaked on African children -- into an intimate drama.

It’s the story of Chanda, a 12-year-old South African girl whose family is rocked by rumors following the death of her infant sister. The baby died of AIDS, but no one is willing to acknowledge it. That leaves an information vacuum that is filled with gossip, making the family pariahs and forcing the mother to flee.

Chanda’s search for her mom -- and the source of the trash talk -- raises disturbing questions about a disease that is widely misunderstood and feared. As if AIDS weren’t enough, the young girl also must deal with a drunken stepdad and a best friend who’s selling herself to local truckers.

Director Oliver Schmitz, who grew up in South Africa, shot the film in Elandsdoorn, a township about 125 miles northeast of Johannesburg. The fine South African cast speaks the local dialect, Sepedi, giving the movie an authentic feel.

“Life, Above All,” from Sony Pictures Classics, is playing in New York and Los Angeles. Rating: ***

‘Lucky’

Ever wonder what would happen if a serial killer won the lottery? Me, neither.

Not so for screenwriter Kent Sublette and director Gil Cates Jr., who find the subject fascinating enough for a feature-length film.

After watching “Lucky,” I don’t think it’s even worth a five-minute short.

Colin Hanks (Tom’s less talented son) plays Ben Keller, a closet psycho who wins the Iowa lottery with a ticket belonging to one of his victims. His newfound riches lead to a whirlwind marriage to childhood friend Lucy (Ari Graynor), a gold digger who sours on the relationship after discovering her husband’s grisly hobby.

Ben’s doting mom (Ann-Margret, looking well preserved) also knows about his secret, but dismisses it as a minor flaw like acne or bad breath.

This is a black comedy with no comic or ironic flair. If you’re looking for guilty laughs, you’re out of luck.

“Lucky,” from Phase 4 Films, is playing in New York and Los Angeles. Rating: *


What the Stars Mean:

****          Excellent
***           Good
**            Average
*             Poor
(No stars)    Worthless

(Rick Warner is the movie critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer on the story: Rick Warner in New York at rwarner1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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