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Movie Review

Relationships in Disarray in Over-the-Top 'Velocity'

July 16, 1999|KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The best thing that can be said about a picture as misfired as "The Velocity of Gary* (*Not His Real Name)" is that it's not likely to damage the careers of the talented people involved in its making. Relative newcomer Thomas Jane soon will be seen in the action thriller "Deep Blue Sea", Salma Hayek is in this summer's "Wild Wild West," and Vincent D'Onofrio is firmly established as a versatile risk-taker. (There's also a cameo by Ethan Hawke.)

Even director Dan Ireland, a film industry veteran, who made his directorial debut with the well-received 1995 "The Whole Wide World," which starred D'Onofrio as pulp novelist Robert E. Howard, already has a new project. So the big question is: How did these people get caught up in first-time writer James Still's wretched script? The story, said to be true, has real possibilities: a menage-a-trois among three young street people. The trouble is that it doesn't seem to be unfolding in the real world, no matter that it was shot largely on downtown L.A. streets, passing as Manhattan, which is seen in establishing shots. The gritty locales serve only to make the material seem all the more artificial.

There is almost nothing going on to anchor these people to everyday existence. Jane's handsome Gary, for example, is a hustler who never seems to have to work at it. Anyway, the attraction between D'Onofrio's Valentino and Gary is instant and strong. We know that Valentino (D'Onofrio) made at least one porn film, but we don't know if he is actually a porn film regular. In the meantime Hayek's tempestuous--really, that's too mild a word here--waitress Mary Carmen has a grand passion for Valentino.

There is no sense of how these people manage to survive from day to day. Mary, in fact, quits her job at an all-night doughnut shop early on. Therefore, most of the film finds these three sitting around indulging in their all-consuming feelings for each other with Mary somewhat less than thrilled to share Valentino with Gary. Then AIDS and pregnancy enter the picture.

Very little is demanded of D'Onofrio and Jane as actors, which may be fortunate for them, because Hayek has been asked to throw hysterics almost continually. In committing herself to her role and in trusting her director she gives a screeching, over-the-top performance that is just plain awful. As it nears its conclusion, "Velocity" starts working up some involvement with these three, but it's way too late to matter.

* MPAA rating: R, for strong sexual content, language, some drug use and violent images. Times guidelines: language, adult themes and situations, wholly unsuitable for children.

'The Velocity of Gary* (*Not His Real Name)'

Salma Hayek: Mary Carmen

Vincent D'Onofrio: Valentino

Thomas Jane: Gary

A Next Millennium Entertainment presentation of a Dan Lupovitz/Joe Simon production in association with Vincent D'Onofrio and Dan Ireland and Ventanarosa Productions. Director Dan Ireland. Producer Dan Lupovitz. Executive producers Carl-Jan Colpaert, Kathryn Arnold, Dan Ireland, Joe Simon, Ellen Wander, Vincent D'Onofrio. Cinematographer Claudio Rocha. Editor Luis Colina. Music Peitor Angell. Costumes Tim Chappel. Production designer Amy Ancona. Art director Rachel Kamerman. Set decorator Melissa Levander. Running time: 1 hour, 48 minutes.

Exclusively at the Sunset 5, 8000 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (323) 848-3500; the Playhouse 7, 673 E. Colorado Blvd., (626) 844-6500; and the University, Campus Drive opposite UCI, Irvine, (949) 854-8811 or (714) 777-FILM (No. 084).

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