In 1993, Brad Pitt was one of the golden boys of Hollywood depicted as nothing more than a sex symbol. For years Pitt tried to reverse that image, and “Kalifornia” is one of his many efforts to break that sex symbol pigeon hole in favor of revealing his inherent acting ability. Paired with the right material, Pitt is a very good actor, but “Kalifornia” isn’t one of his best performances, no matter how hard he tries to channel his inner slime ball. That’s because “Kalifornia” is a bland and forgettable thriller with a great idea that it manages to piss away quite well.
Brian Kessler (David Duchovny) is a writer, and his girlfriend, Carrie Laughlin (Michelle Forbes), is an erotic photographer. They’re working on a book about famous serial killers, and are planning a trip across the country to document the sites of famous serial murders. To cut the traveling costs, they set up a ride-share with strangers, Early Grayce (Brad Pitt) and his girlfriend, Adele Corners (Juliette Lewis), a lower class married couple planning to go to California. What Brian and Carrie don’t know is that Early is a violent sociopath in the middle of his own serial killing spree, leaving a trail of victims in his wake. “Kalifornia” is, once again, a good idea turned in to a pretty boring and goofy movie.
Much of what unfolds doesn’t make too much sense, and a lot of the intended dramatic impact is misfired in to occasionally goofy and comical notes. Pitt, in particular, is depicted as this stone cold man prone to killing like it’s a mundane chore, but by the last fifteen minutes he’s transformed in to a silly serial killer with a penchant for cartoonish outbursts. Juliette Lewis is also badly misdirected, portraying a woman who’s literally been broken by Early and is so brainwashed she doesn’t really seem bothered by much of what Early does, even when he forces her to starve during a morning at breakfast. Lewis, though, plays the character inadvertently humorous with a lot of gaping stares, and ridiculous line delivery, gradually turning Adele in to a nuisance more than a victim hopelessly lost in her abusive dynamic with Early.
“Kalifornia” looks a lot like early day Tony Scott with its orange hazy direction, attempting to add style to a film that’s often incredibly boring. Adding to the boredom is Duchovny’s lackluster performance where he seems pretty sleep induced most of the time. There’s never a real tonal direction taken by director Dominic Sena, giving way to a movie that’s part road trip film, part slasher, part true crime thriller, and heavy emphases on attempting to work in some psychological dissection of violence and its allure. This is punctuated by often bloated and goofy narration that works toward expressing the weight of the violence, but often feels like an attempt to fill in the holes on an obviously under developed narrative. “Kalifornia” is an uneven mess of a vehicle for its stars, one that did no favors for anyone starring, including Pitt.
The Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray from Shout! Select comes packed with the Theatrical and Unrated Versions of “Kalifornia.” Disc One comes with the latter, and features a twenty four minute interview with director Dominic Sena, who explores the journey of making the film, describing it as an “odyssey,” and discusses his hunt to direct the perfect project. There are two original featurettes for the film, including an original EPK, and another that talks to Pitt and Lewis. Finally there are original trailers and TV Spots clocking in at almost six minutes. Disc Two contains the same extras.