Two competing hotshot / hack journalists (Roberts and Nolte) are, when they're not busy sleeping together, trying to beat each other to the next big scoop, until a conspiracy story leads them into hot water.
The pairing of two superstars in writer-director Charles Shyer's romantic comedy thriller would seem to hold promise. Alas, it quickly becomes all too clear that Julia Roberts (twentysomething) and Nick Nolte (fiftysomething) go together about as well as the fish and the bicycle of graffiti fame, leaving this laboriously contrived movie dead in the water.
Roberts, tottering around crime scenes and disaster sites in fetchingly unsuitable business suits and stiletto heels, is, we are asked to believe, a quick-witted and wily hotshot reporter. But the admittedly beauteous Roberts scarcely utters an aspiring bon mot that rings true. Nolte is better equipped but, frankly, too old for his role as an incorrigible lover boy and slothful newspaper columnist who is assigned back to a newsbeat for his sins, and thus matched against Roberts in rivalry for the big scoop. Naturally, he's interested in bedding her as well as beating her to a Pulitzer.
The story they clash over and, eventually, team up on, begins with a sabotaged train and leads - torturously - through missing persons and murder to an environmentally-unfriendly conspiracy and corruption in high places. En route, the two engage in fast-talking smart-ass banter, dodge hit-men and demonstrate uncanny resourcefulness when things get hot.
The film strives throughout for the snappy repartee and sass that flowed effortlessly in the great couple vehicles of the '30s and '40s, but the Nolte-Roberts partnership comes nowhere near recreating the tone or sophistication evident in the Hepburn-Tracey movies of that era. That kind of chemistry between two stars can't be scripted or directed, it just happens or, as in this case, doesn't.
You can't really blame the bizarre plot, as other screwball comedies have succeeded on less. But the lack of chemistry onscreen allows the paper-thin premise to collapse in on itself, and there's very little else left to salvage.