Terence Stamp plays a just-released British convict who comes to Los Angeles to investigate the death of his estranged daughter. Stamp is a tough guy, but not Bob Hoskins cockney and bluster, The Long Good Friday tough (thankfully, Stamp is more intelligible). He’s icy and removed, grimly determined to get to the bottom of his daughter’s death. His search opens several leads, the most promising being Peter Fonda, a record executive who made his bones in the 60s, and Barry Newman, Fonda’s dubious associate (Newman was a 70s American television staple as “Petrocelli” the lawyer).
As icons of the 60s, Fonda and Stamp are dinosaurs, two powerful men not quite at ease in the 90s, and Soderbergh uses them to insert a generational disconnect in a taut psychological crime thriller.
Stamp evokes the macho rage of an absent father well. His anger burns, even though his memories are but a few snippets and stories (he was in prison for a great period of her upbringing). His inner demon is not so much what he lost, but what he squandered, and he’s powerful.
Where Stamp is driven, Fonda is resigned. He senses that his time is past, and his desperation is palpable. His weakness is subtle (his conversations with a lover 30 years his junior are wonderfully pained, the scripted equivalent of a middle-aged man in a Porsche, a head mottled by Rogaine, and “The Byrds” on the CD, as he waxes about his past, only to be met with “Oh, I think you’ve told me that story”).