Flesh and Bone (1993) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

I have a great ambivalence about this film. I really enjoyed the characterizations and a lot of scenes in the movie, but the plot is just downright incredible.

James Caan (as a Texan!) plays an evil and particularly violent con artist and thief who, in a flashback to 25 years ago, slaughtered an entire family in a bungled burglary. Correct that - he slaughtered an entire family except the baby girl. But, gosh darn it, he always felt that he left a job undone, so a post-it note to "kill that baby" has been sitting in his in-basket for all these years. He even has a reminder to himself on a cute Snoopy refrigerator magnet, just to keep focused on the task. Being an evil cowboy isn't as stress-free as you might think. They have a lot on their minds, and it's easy to forget to do those routine yet insanely vengeful things that can mean so much.

Dennis Quaid plays Caan's son. He was along on that murderous night 25 years ago. Although he was only a tyke at the time, his father holds him responsible for the fact that the burglary did not go as planned. Quaid is essentially a modest and honest down-home man, but because of his childhood, he is distant and lonely. He runs a multi-town vending machine route, and has never really gotten close to a woman.

Now get this. After all those years, although he's now well into his thirties and has been with zillions of women he didn't much care for, he finally falls in love for the first time with a slutty, tough-talkin' Texas gal that he helped out of some trouble. Guess who she really is?

Yup, you scored a bulls-eye if you guessed that she's the survivor whose murder is on his pappy's "to do" list. Well, of course, he can't just let ol' Sonny Bob Corleone take down the love of his life. What to do?


You can't complain here. Two big stars, both show their breasts: Meg in a sex scene with Quaid, Gwyneth (pre-stardom) in an undressing scene.

Barbara Alyn Woods also shows her buns in a post-sex scene.

OK, ignore that. Don't think of it as a plot-driven film, but as a character study.

Dennis Quaid is so-o-o-o underrated, one of those guys, like Jeff Bridges, who seems to deliver consistently, but inevitably loses the awards to the British accent crowd. Quaid may seem like a handsome rake and a lightweight pretty boy, but that's just an illusion that he can turn on and off. He has both talent and a good work ethic. His performance in this film, as a laconic Texan who keeps his counsel and his integrity, is perfect. Every note he plays is clear. His mannerisms, his inflections, the way he carries himself, the way he pauses. He has a certain Texas type down pat. Of course, I can't remember a movie when I didn't like him, and he is much more versatile than people think, but I thought he did especially well here.

His then-wife Meg Ryan also did a good job, although she was playing against type. Meg as Southern white trash? Isn't she the cutesy-pie suburban chick from New England? Yup, but I think she did fine. Or I should say "she done fine".

A young Gwyneth Paltrow is also in this film as pappy's sleazy girlfriend and partner in crime, and I thought she also brought a complex credibility to her role, although she didn't have much screen time to establish character.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1

The Texas dialogue in the film was also quite accurate, and it could even be amusing when the scene called for it, although the movie is a generally bleak noir with an especially depressing ending. 

Author Steve Kloves has an excellent track record. Although Flesh and Bone is good in many ways, it is his worst script. He has written the three Harry Potter scripts, plus The Fabulous Baker Boys, Wonder Boys, and Racing with the Moon.

Tuna's Thoughts

Flesh and Bone (1993), as Scoopy mentioned, is a lame plot full of great performances. Unfortunately, none of the characters were in anyway appealing to me. The DP did an excellent job, but was filming somewhere in  Texas which may have been the most boring expanse of real estate in the world, or at least ever recorded on film. The unbelievable coincidences that drive the plot, of which Scoopy mentioned only one, didn't bother me near as much as the total predictability of it. Although technically competent and well-acted, I can't imagine who the audience would be for this film, although the exposure from Meg Ryan and Gwyeneth Paltrow is a very strong plus.

It is a C at best.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two and a half stars. Ebert 2/4, Berardinelli 3/4

The People Vote ...

  • with their dollars: domestic gross: $9.5 million
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is. My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C (both reviewers). Too bad the plot was so contrived and improbable, because they had some good material to work with. This should have been a noir masterpiece, but the thriller has no thrills, and the mystery is only briefly mysterious, and it works for that short period only because, although you can see it coming, you think it couldn't be something that implausible.

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