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Storyville Review

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★★★★★

As might be expected from the force behind Hill Street Blues and the cult TV series Twin Peaks, Mark Frost's directorial debut lies - uncomfortably - where between the two, a twisted hotchpotch of sex, murder and family intrigue, all mixed up in the political shenanigans of one Cray Fowler (Spader), and set in swamp-eery Hicksville, Louisiana.

Moving through a dark world of familiarly weird ne'er-do-wells for most of this flawed but oddly alluring intrigue, Spader's baby-faced rich kid seems a peculiar choice for a Congressional candidate, whose bid for the White House is clouded by his father's suicide on the day he was to testify in an investigation of a mineral rights deal - one which made the family fortune and cheated the local black tenants out of theirs.

With a political stink brewing, Cray further fuels the ire of fanatical family patriarch Clifford Fowler (Robards) by getting caught on videotape with a prostitute called Lee (Charlotte Lewis), winding up with her dead father on his hands, and bizarrely offering his services as Lee's defence attorney when she's accused of murder.

Confused? Absolutely, but if you've swallowed the plotline thus far the rest is a treat with Spader smartening up his act, tying up more loose ends than were ever resolved in an entire Peaks series, and laying into prosecutor and ex-flame Whalley-Kilmer in a courtroom showdown of truly crazy proportions.

It's all enormous nonsense, of course, but some unobtrusively classy acting from the leads and sterling support from the likes of Piper Laurie's faded Southern belle make this at least worth a visit.