Kalifornia [1993]

David Duchovny is a blocked author with a fascination for outlaw killers who hatches a plan to road trip through America's mass-murder landmarks to finish his book. He enlists his frustrated photographer girlfriend Michelle Forbes, who desperately wants to leave the East Coast for L.A., to illustrate the tome, and they advertise for riding partners. Luckily for them, they wind up with a veteran killer, the greasy trailer-park ex-con Brad Pitt, who decides to skip parole with his cowering child-woman girlfriend Juliette Lewis. Duchovny is enamored by gun-toting Pitt's recklessness and lawless disregard for, well, everything; he's simultaneously terrified and thrilled by Pitt's brutal beating of a barfly. Meanwhile, Pitt's leaving a trail of corpses in their wake. Directed with a cool remove by Dominic Sena (Gone in 60 Seconds 2000), Kalifornia falls somewhere between Badlands and Natural Born Killers. Pitt brings a ferocious magnetism to his part, but it's still hard to buy genial Duchovny's odd attraction; Juliette Lewis conveys a terrifying sense of victimization with her poor dumb creature. Despite the film's best efforts, it never really plumbs the psyche of Pitt's simmering psycho--he's just plain bad, you know--but it does fashion an effective little thriller out of the tensions brewing in the restless quartet. --Sean Axmaker

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