Firmly dumping their star appeal in the nearest dustbin, husband and wife team Quaid and Ryan pile on the imperfections and ruffle up their gorgeous complexions for this dark, moody, brilliantly written marriage of love story and thriller. A superlative flop the masses clearly dont want to see their idols with dirty fingernails set along sunburnt Texan roads and dead-end towns, crying out for discovery.
Things commence 30 years back with a murder. In fact, a wholesale slaughter occurs when a supposedly stray kid lets his thieving father Roy (Caan) into the home of the good folks who took him in. When the amoral scoundrel is disturbed, he has no qualms in slamming bullets into the whole family, bar a screaming baby.
Spring forward to the present and to Arlis Sweeney (Quaid), a drifting vending machine filler, an emotional iceberg with a deadly secret. In a fateful squall of events he meets, helps and falls for Kay (Ryan), the downbeat beauty touting black-eyes and bad luck. But before he can decide that happiness may be an option, his sleazy, no-good pa, that very same Roy, arrives on the scene with a back full of scattershot, a wispy, cynical companion (Paltrow) and the realisation that Kay is none other than that orphaned baby.
Kloves tragic conundrum required a lot of his players, with the plot drawn out long and sinewy the characters are the driving force, and they respond in spades. Quaid has never been better as the unsmiling, introspective Arlis, Ryan gushes curses and love like a manic fountain, discolouring her whiter than white persona with agreeable ease and Caan, slightly overdoing things, delivers a rasping baddie spitting deception and threats.
And their director, too, does a masterful job in holding it all together; the pace, cool and sombre, is never rippled, the desolate landscapes are hauntingly atmospheric and the unsuspected ending a shivery note of poignancy. Hardly a barrel of laughs then, but this slowburn tale sears its way onto the synapses and then flat refuses to budge.