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Small town cop Kyle Bodine (Ed Harris) is good at his job but he is headed for a fall when he meets stylish but gloomy beauty Rachel Munro (Madeleine Stowe) slumming it in a sleazy bar. Rachel is misery in marriage to Rupert (Charles Dance), a Florida banking tycoon who beats her and makes her life a living hell. Rupert is the rampart between them when they fall in love but Rachel solves part of the problem when she kills the swine, in what she claims was self-defence. Now she needs all of the cop’s expertise to dispose of the corpse and cover up the crime. 

Review by Keith Lofthouse:
Made in 1991 and stuck on the shelf for three years while Orion Pictures went bankrupt, this slick and twisty noir thriller is like Body Heat on slow simmer. Kyle Bodine is a smart cop who runs rings around his good-looking deputy Lamar (Benicio Del Toro). Despite being branded an “average” cop by his senior partner, Lamar still admires and respects him. “If you kill somebody in Brayton,” he muses, “Kyle Bodine's gonna catch you.” Clearly, Bodine is just too big for the small minds in Polk County, Florida, but the big difference is that he’s never been to the movies and can’t see the calamity that’s coming when he swans into that sweaty bar and is swept off his feet by the predatory Rachel. As she sulks moodily over a long drink, cop and cameras swirl and you know by the very conventions of film noir that someone is about to swoon over the fluttering femme fatale with the despicable spouse, the miserable outlook and murder on her mind. 

Still, men like Kevin Costner (Revenge), Ray Liotta (Unlawful Entry) and Richard Dreyfuss (Stakeout), have all been stupefied by the unspectacular Stowe in the past, so why should Harris be any exception? Perhaps it takes an actor of his talent and intensity to make this dubious infatuation seem feasible; that Bodine, with a reputation for always getting his man, might be tempted, out of sheer boredom, to beat the very system he has mastered by covering the tracks of a killer. 

Once upon a time, we might have praised the serpentine plot for these very same “twists and turns,” but from Double Indemnity to Basic Instinct and The Last Seduction, audiences have learned to see around corners for duplicity and deceit. And, true to form China Moon is unfailingly predictable at every turn…even if some of the forensic details - what happens to a bullet fired into a sand dune and how do household humidifiers effect fingerprints - are at least absorbing. It’s significant that first-time director Bailey, who worked as cinematographer on three early Lawrence Kasdan projects (The Accidental Tourist, Silverado and The Big Chill) should be so influenced by Body Heat (1981) which was the first film Kasdan directed. 

Bailey hasn’t even bothered to change locations (Florida)…and there is Stowe again, slinking about in a clinging white dress that might be off the same rack as Kathleen Turner’s sexy little number in the earlier film. The title is arbitrarily alluded to in a single silly line, muttered under a full moon, on a rare night without a torrent of transparently moody rain. “When the moon is like a big old plate of china,” he moons, “strange things happen." And so they do, and yet there’s nothing uncommon about this kind of strange ... and nothing too original. 

Published February 19, 2004

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(US, 1994)

CAST: Ed Harris, Madeleine Stowe, Benicio Del Toro, Charles Danc

DIRECTOR: John Bailey

SCRIPT: Roy Carlson

RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes

PRESENTATION: 1.85:1 Dolby digital

SPECIAL FEATURES: Cinema trailer, photo gallery.


DVD RELEASE: October 20, 2003

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