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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Lonely Hearts (review)

Can a film be poised and belligerent at the same time? This true-crime story is noirishly slick and serene in laying bare the twisted late-1940s murder spree of Martha Beck (Salma Hayek: Ask the Dust) and Ray Fernandez (Jared Leto: Lord of War), who scammed rich war widows out of their dough then got their sexual kicks out of slaughtering them in cold blood; and it likewise layers a grim sheen over the personal devastation hunting down the killer couple took on emotionally buttoned-down cop Elmer Robinson (John Travolta: Wild Hogs). The aggressive challenge comes in the startlingly dangerous performances of the trio of leads, all of whom are not only at the top of their game but are so deliberately uningratiating that they dare you not to like them. They almost succeed. Writer-director Todd Robinson is the real Robinson’s grandson, and intends his film more as a tribute to the price the good guys pay for being the good guys than any kind of examination of the minds of the bad guys. The heavy gloom he leaves us with might replicate that of his crime-fighting grandfather, but it makes for a film that never gives us that light at the end of the tunnel that would make the gloom worth enduring.

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MPAA: rated R for strong violence and sexual content, nudity and language

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

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