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Mulholland Falls

1 rating: 1.0
A movie directed by Lee Tamahori

The murder of a well-connected seductress swings the true-life maverick 1950's L.A. police unit known as the "Hat Squad" into action in this atmospheric thriller. Unconcerned with protocol, this group of tough cops makes up their own rules, … see full wiki

Tags: Movies, Dramas
Director: Lee Tamahori
Release Date: 1996
MPAA Rating: R
1 review about Mulholland Falls

A Good, But By No Means, a Great Movie

  • Mar 27, 2005
Pros: See Review

Cons: See Review

The Bottom Line: This is not a must-see film, but it is fine for that Saturday night when nothing else piques your interest.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie''s plot.

I am sure everyone knows that despite Los Angeles’ proximity to a large body of water, there are no waterfalls in and around the city of the stars. The ostensible title Mulholland Falls refers to instead to the preferred method of ridding 1950s L.A. of the unwanted criminal element by a certain team of LA police officers called the Hat Squad. They would take the criminal to the high point of the mountainous Mulholland Drive and kick him off; a gruesome and painful message not to do business in LA.

The Hat Squad in this case consists of a foursome represented by: Nick Nolte (North Dallas Forty, 48 Hours, The Prince of Tides) portrays Max Hoover; Chazz Palminteri (The Usual Suspects, Jade, Diabolique) portrays Elleroy Coolidge; Chris Penn (Reservoir Dogs, Under the Hula Moon, Rush Hour) portrays Arthur Relyea; and Michael Madsen (Thelma & Louise, Reservoir Dogs, Free Willy) portrays Eddie Hall.

The Story-Line

Directed by Lee Tamahori (Along Came a Spider, Die Another Day), with screenplay by Pete Dexter Mulholland Falls takes a snapshot, if you will, of mid-1950’s LA as seen through the eyes of the LAPD's Hat Squad, a real-life group of nattily dressed but hard-nosed cops who most often operated outside the law in a futile attempt to keep the city free of Organized Crime.

In Mulholland Falls, their latest mission, purpose, undertaking: to find the murderer of Allison Pond portrayed by a very (beautifully voluptuous) Jennifer Connelly (Etoile, The Hot Spot, Of Love and Shadows) a woman whose bizarre death leads the fearless foursome—led by Max—to U.S. Army General portrayed by John Malkovich (Places in the Heart, Empire of the Sun, Dangerous Liaisons) who also heads the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and his protector Colonel Fitzgerald portrayed by Treat Williams (Prince of the City, Once Upon a Time in America, Dead Heat). A little wrinkle: Max had once been romantically involved with Pond, a woman who gets around, and in the process of trying to cover up his involvement with her compromises the investigation.

Events quickly spiral out of control when Max receives a film with Allison and the unsuspecting General cavorting in Allison’s bedroom apartment. The film was secretly shot—through a two-way mirror—by her self-proclaimed best friend and next door neighbor, Jimmy Fields portrayed by a very young Andrew McCarthy (The Joy Luck Club, Perfect Assassins, The Secret Life of Zoey) who fears for his own life now that Allison is dead. His fears are a self-fulfilling prophecy as he too turns up dead, and a second film is mailed to Max’s house, but in his clip, which is addressed to Max’s wife Katherine portrayed by Melanie Griffith (Body Double, Something Wild, Working Girl), the LAPD Lieutenant is cavorting with Allison.

Meanwhile things get muddied by the FBI and attempted cover-ups which lead to more violence, murder and mayhem. Max, who appears wise as he dispenses nuggets of wisdom to the men under his charge, is a man who lives outside the law he is charge with upholding; he certainly will not be the keynote speaker at the next ACLU benefit. He has a razor-thin temper, a (predictable) drinking problem and an abiding hatred for mobsters, or anyone who might get in his way. He thinks himself above the law, that of man and nature, and that is his eventual downfall.

My Thoughts

Mulholland Falls could have been a fascinating look into an era in American history that is often looked upon an ideally magical, but certainly was not. Instead, we got a predictable, formulaic plot with little surprises and which leaves nothing to the imagination. Who would have guessed for instance that Max would leave his problems in the bottom of a bottle? And aren’t we tired of the FBI always being the ultimate baddies? True, under Hoover the FBI was less then angelic, but could we please tell a different tale about the storied institution. Also, important expository scenes were probably cut out in order to give more screen time to the many big-name stars in the film, but it cost Mulholland Falls some needed meat. It was never clear what Allison’s role is all of this was. Was she a prostitute, or just a woman who got around? How did she meet the General and what were her motivations? The first film showed things that the Army wanted to keep secret, but how was it shot in the first place, and more importantly, how did it come to light?

We never meet Allison; she is only experienced in flashbacks, and almost always in the nude. Connelly’s character is mostly wasted; I never gained feeling for because I was never allowed to know her as anything more then a sexual tool; a beautiful well endowed doll with a stunning smile. Wasted as well and woefully miscast was Melanie Griffith, who trough most of the more is nothing more then a boring prop, and looking considerably older then she should.

Still the movie had its moments; it was beautifully shot and the period costumes and other accruements were an interesting aside. I love the view of the very large hole in the desert left by the atomic bomb, and the attention to detail paid to its aftermath; i.e. the crystallization of the sand into shards of glass.


In the final analysis Mulholland Falls is an enjoyable film, a good film, but not a great one. The performances were respectable, but not great, not Oscar worthy. I believe the script could have been tighter and less predicable, and the characters given more development and, well, life. And though I love to see Jennifer Connelly on the silver screen, some of her script choices have been questionable and this is one of them. This is not a must-see film, but it is fine for that Saturday night when nothing else piques your interest.


Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age

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