Blood and Wine (1996) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Director Bob Rafelson has collaborated six times with the ultimate icon of American film, Jack Nicholson. Nicholson has been his star five times, and the two men co-wrote a film in which Nicholson did not act.

  1. (7.38) - Five Easy Pieces (1970)
  2. (6.39) - The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981)
  3. (6.28) - Head (1968) (Nicholson as co-author. It stars The Monkees!)
  4. (6.26) - The King of Marvin Gardens (1972)
  5. (6.09) - Blood and Wine (1996)
  6. (4.50) - Man Trouble (1992)

Their collaborations have generally been interesting and/or memorable, but the last great one was in 1981, and the PG-13 comedy Man Trouble is reportedly a completely forgettable film (I haven't seen it), so Blood and Wine is a "comeback" of sorts for the former A-list duo. Unlike their two famous 70's collaborations, Blood and Wine has very little in mind beyond the slick execution of a basic noir formula. It is closest in content and tone to their 1981 remake of The Postman Always Rings Twice.

Nicholson runs a wine store and has apparently run into a financial dead end, having overextended himself by impressing toney clients and maintaining young mistresses. His vices have not been very good for his marriage, and the situation is exacerbated by the fact that his wife is the actual owner of the wine business which furnishes his fancy lifestyle, and which he is steadily draining of value. His wife becomes a heavy substance abuser. His stepson can see what is going on, and generally despises Big Jack. Desperate for a score, The ol' Joker turns to an old and unhealthy two-bit safecracker for assistance in robbing the home of a rich family whose nanny is Nicholson's latest girlfriend, a sexy Cubana one third his age. Obtaining the priceless necklace in the safe is easy enough for the old codgers, but getting away with it proves difficult.

Nicholson pays a heavy price for the messy life he has led. His troubles begin when his estranged wife leaves him. Although she knows nothing of the necklace caper and her flight is unrelated to the crime he has committed, the suitcase she takes just happens to be the very place where he has hidden the precious necklace. He and his sleazy crony must therefore track down Nicholson's wife and son. Meanwhile, the sexy Cubana finds out that she has been used to rob her employers, and that she's likely to take the rap. She also seems to be in love with both Nicholson and his stepson, which makes matters even messier. Those five characters parry and thrust their way through various crosses and double-crosses and half-baked plans until ...

Well, you have the idea.

I'm sure you can see that this script could have resulted in a direct-to-vid erotic thriller starring Richard Grieco, but it is elevated to a higher level, if not quite a classic one, by the Rafelson-Nicholson pairing. They managed to surround Nicholson with an excellent supporting cast. His partner in crime is played by Michael Caine. I was going to write, simply, "Michael Caine is in this movie" until I realized that that phrase is as unnecessary as "The Sun rose in the East this morning." Michael Caine is in every movie. It's a given. But he's almost always good. Nicholson's wife is played by Judy Davis, and the role of his Cubana girlfriend is played by Jennifer Lopez, the then-unknown actress who would soon transmogrify into a walking entourage through her work as a singer, an actress, and an all-around media ho. In this film, before the days when she was surrounded by sycophants, Lopez demonstrates her pre-glam natural beauty, as well as the soulfulness which now seems lost, but was once enough to lead her to become a one-woman media conglomerate.

The film is not a genre classic, but it's too interesting to be forgotten, and it's an excellent illustration of how a top-notch team of professionals can breathe some life into tired B-movie characters and familiar plot twists. If the idea interests you, Fox did an excellent job on the DVD. It is loaded with featurettes and deleted scenes, and includes two commentary tracks which are, in the main, done by film legends! All that and a look at J-Lo's bum when she was 26 years old. Not so bad at all for ten bucks.

  • The transfer is widescreen, anamorphically enhanced (16x9)
  • Commentary with Bob Rafelson
  • Scene Specific Commentary with Jack Nicholson, Steven Dorff, Michael Caine, and others
  • Making of Featurette: Genesis & The Characters
  • The Job of Acting: On Jack Nicholson, On Michael Caine, & On Bob Rafelson
  • Bob and Jack: A Life-Long Dialogue
  • Several Deleted Scenes: Introduction by Director Bob Rafelson



Covering the goods with only a thong-style leotard, Jennifer Lopez shows the butt which would soon become the world's most famous.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel consensus out of four stars: not quite three. James Berardinelli 2/4, Roger Ebert 3.5/4. Ebert was quite satisfied with the project, but Berardinelli wrote, "Nicholson is good. The film isn't."

  • As is true with just about all Michael Caine movies, Citizen Caine has excellent coverage.

The People Vote ...

  • Box Office Mojo. It was a financial disappointment, although I'm not sure who to believe when it comes to the production costs. Bob Rafelson calls it a "low-budget" film several times on the DVD, but IMDb reports that it was a $26 million project. Wherever the truth lies, it recouped virtually nothing at the box office, grossing about a million despite its star-studded cast.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our own guideline:

  • A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
  • B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.


Based on this description, this film is a C. It is not a great noir, but does not deserve obscurity. It is well worth the watch if you're a fan of the genre or the principals in the cast. In traditional rating terms, call it approximately a three star movie overall - basically a two star script with a four star cast and a solid director.

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