8:00 PM, 2nd July, 1999
Sean and Robin Wright Penn star as Mr. and Mrs. Soused, a pair of substance-abusing, a-few-shots-short-of-a-full-bottle barflies who are so very much in love that neither an extended stay in a mental hospital (for him) or divorce, remarriage, and kids (for her) can keep them apart for long. They're the most memorable characters in this engrossing (and ultimately absurd) actors' showcase, the centrepiece of which is Mr. Penn's riveting, Cannes award-winning performance. Robin Wright (Forrest Gump's girlfriend) is quite good, as well, anchoring the film - or the first hour, at least - with a compelling study in skank. (And you thought the cast of Career Girls were strangers to shampoo!) Also on hand is John Travolta, who cusses and fusses through a late appearance as the exasperated second husband (he's quite funny and gets off the best line in the film). As for the story, well, seeing is disbelieving. Sure, the film's first half is easy-going enough, but after ten years pass and loverboy returns to reclaim his wife, we're told nothing about her, or how she's doing, or what she's thinking, or why she's be-bopping out the door five seconds after attempting to slit her wrists. It's a baffling turn of events that rivals Conspiracy Theory for sheer second-hour suckiness.
Michael J. Legeros
9:30 PM, 2nd July, 1999
Midori, (Japanese star Youki Kudoh) on honeymoon in Australia with a boring husband, fakes her own kidnapping to meet up with her secret lover, who doesn't show. While cashing a cheque, she is taken hostage during a bungled but frenetic bank heist (to the tune of Brian Ferry's 'The In Crowd'). (Close watchers will spot my dad as 'Man in Bank Queue', but I digress). Saved from certain death at the hands of the robbers by the gang's getaway driver Colin (Russell Crowe), the two head outback, towards their destiny (and a few pretty good cameo characters).
Amid all the genre jumping, the plot actually holds pretty well together. Colin and Midori, having been thrust together, become lovers on the road to oblivion, on the move only because neither can go back. Midori has shamed her husband, her family and herself, while Colin has debts, detectives and angry Afghan bankrobbers on his tail ( I was interrogator for KGB'). Midori's husband meanwhile has transformed from internationally shamed cuckold, to leatherclad samurai style avenger, clearly taking the 'death before dishonour' approach.
Heaven's Burning is a great, incredibly misunderstood and under-rated Australian film, whose biggest fault is probably that it failed to let the audience know it was a send-up. So I'm telling you instead. Then again, I could be wrong. It may actually be a really bad film.