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Review: 'Palmetto' a disappointing destination

February 20, 1998
Web posted at: 6:34 p.m. EST (2334 GMT)

From Reviewer Paul Clinton

(CNN) -- Woody Harrelson has a dream role in the new film "Palmetto."

The actor gets to be the center of attention from not one, not two, but three leading ladies. Gina Gershon, Elizabeth Shue and Chloe Sevigny all turn their impressive charms toward Harrelson in this complex thriller set in the small town of Palmetto on Florida's Gulf coast.

Palmetto also can be a beetle or a small fan-leafed palm tree, and believe me, "Palmetto" is better off as a bug than as the latest Harrelson vehicle.

Harrelson plays a hapless guy named Harry who is fresh out of prison after being framed for fraud when he tried to uncover corruption in Palmetto, his home town. Gina Gershon plays his girlfriend, who takes him back into her life and her bed.

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But it's Shue as Rhea, and her daughter Odette (Sevigny), who lure Harry into a kidnapping scam they've set up to steal $500,000 from Rhea's old, rich hubby Felix.

Adapted from the 1930s book "Just Another Sucker" by Rene Raymond (who used a pen name of James Hadley Chase -- good move!), this film would seem to have all the elements for film noir. Give me sand, sweat and sex wrapped in a film noir package and I'm halfway there.


But "Palmetto" is a "Body Heat" wanna-be that never catches fire. Unfortunately, everyone in the movie is miscast, especially Shue and Harrelson. And while there are plenty of twists and turns in this convoluted plot and nobody is what, or whom, they seem to be, the final destination is a letdown.

The lighting and the mood are there. But overall, "Palmetto" is a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic. The film opens nationwide February 20 and is rated R for sex, violence and language. The film runs 112 minutes.


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