Wonderland

Sweaty, wasted lowlifes desperately in need of a shower, a shave, and a stint in rehab sit around hatching bone-headed, doomed plans to score money and/or drugs in Wonderland, a fact-based drama from the Goodfellas school of stylistic overdrive. Going not-so-boldly where others have gone before, Wonderland stars Val Kilmer as legendary porn star John Holmes, here an unemployable cokehead who isn't above pimping underage girlfriend Kate Bosworth. Then again, he isn't above anything, including facilitating and/or participating in the bloody massacre of his thieving, drug-abusing acquaintances at the eponymous den of vice. Wonderland unfolds largely in Rashomon-like flashbacks, as various players offer self-serving, contradictory accounts of what led to the murders. Not all the characters in Wonderland are lowlifes, though; some are scumbags. Apart from the detectives investigating the murders, just about the only sympathetic players are Bosworth and Lisa Kudrow, the latter playing Kilmer's square, decent wife, who knows better but remains devoted to him throughout years of estrangement. As arguably the most famous porn actor of all time, a well-cast Kilmer suggests both the childlike neediness of a man rendered helpless by addiction and the scheming self-interest of a con artist. Kilmer and an ace supporting cast turn in fine work, but there's little to set Wonderland apart from not only Goodfellas and Boogie Nights–which stole much from Holmes' life, only to have Wonderland steal it back–but also from second-generation progeny like Blow and Auto Focus. The central irony of Wonderland and its ilk is that the "edgy" filmmaking style (characterized by split-screens, a wall-to-wall soundtrack of super-hits from the '60s, '70s, and '80s, and jumpy camerawork and editing), which is meant to convey danger and unpredictability, has itself devolved into a set of well-worn clichés. Wonderland is to Boogie Nights what Blow was to Goodfellas: an accomplished knockoff with all the tricks and none of the soul.

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