The prospect of Jeff Bridges and Nick Nolte sinking their illustrious teeth into an emotionally-charged tale of love, betrayal and revenge is an enticing one. The presence of Sharon Stone and Albert Finney also points to an engagingly rich movie experience. Unfortunately Simpatico, adapted from Sam Shepard's typically character-heavy play, is a major let down, proving to be much less than the sum of its wholly promising parts.
Bridges plays Carter, a wealthy racehorse breeder who walks out of the sale of a prize thoroughbred to answer a desperate plea for help from his former best friend Vinnie (Nolte). Hot-footing it from his ranch in Kentucky to the derelict California town where they grew up, Carter discovers Vinnie living in reclusive squalor, consumed by guilt, drinking his days away and endlessly re-running old home movies from the days when they ran an audacious racetrack scam. The hold that Vinnie still has over Carter is initially intriguing, as are the skillfully handled flashback sequences that piece together the details of their shattered friendship and where Carter's wife Rosie (Stone), their ex-partner and apex of the inevitable love triangle, fits into the picture. But when Vinnie gives Carter the slip and embarks on a quest to win Rosie back, the going gets somewhat heavy.
Whenever Nolte and Bridges share the screen their undeniable presence commands attention, but they're hampered by stagebound and curiously bloodless dialogue. The interweaving of their past and present lives is also overtly theatrical, lacking the range or the density to sustain the film. Finney is great as a brutish track official, but Stone is utterly wasted. Yes, she looks fabulous on horseback in a silk nightie, but this scene is so blatantly gratuitous it simply highlights the material's paucity of big screen clout.