This intoxicating film noir is a movie of considerable quality, infused with heady atmosphere, effortless style and steeped in dark, delicious suspense. It's a sly gangster pic which at once parodies, lauds and refreshes the genre, Vic (Dreyfuss) is about to return. His influence extends all over the denizens in a nameless city's underworld - at least it did before a spell looking for marbles in a mental institution - and now the shambling but ferret-eyed kingpin's imminent return is stirring up fear, ambition and murderous intent.
There's his volatile hitman Ben "Brass Balls" London (Byrne) whose stewardship has led to delusions of equality; Vic's right hand man Mickey Holliday (Goldblum), who's been, er, taking care of his moll (Diane Lane), while using his left hand on her tempestuous sister (Barkin); and the snake-like Jake Palmer (Kyle MacLachlan), looking to profit from the inevitable retirements when Vic sets his house in order.
And that's pretty much the focus for the entire shooting match. The air vibrates with an unpredictable tension as major players warily manoeuvre, small-timers stake chancy claims and various characters expire in the smoke of pistol duels. Even these are cloaked in class: dusty midday streets and bullet-strewn hits are replaced with office bound shoot-outs between oak desks, behind which the combatants recline - one of them permanently.
It's loaded with cameos - Billy Idol, Rob Reiner, Burt Reynolds as rival gang-leader Wacky Jack Jackson, the throat-tighteningly gorgeous Angie Everhart as the DNA Club hostess - and with the principal cast all superb, this makes for a richly visual, blackly humourous, and viciously charming twist away from the norm.