In this twisted tale of depravity, where everything is not as it appears, the intrigue is created out of the moral ambiguity surrounding its protagonist, Danny Parker (Val Kilmer), who’s an anti-hero like Leonard Shelby in Memento, or Jack Grimaldi in Romeo Is Bleeding. When we first meet Danny, he’s a tattoo’d tweaker (meth addict) who goes on sleepless, week-long binges and snitches to the cops, but then there’s a second identity, a cherished past as a jazz musician — one that the film conveniently obfuscates.
Can these polar personas exist in the same man, did one beget the other, or is there something darker and more devious at work? That’s the screw director D.J. Caruso keeps turning until the plot thickens and it’s time to lay down the cards. Kilmer turns in a bravura performance, evoking empathy for his burnt-out shell of a man even during some seemingly reprehensible maneuverings. The supporting cast, which includes Vincent D’Onofrio as a noseless coke freak and Anthony LaPaglia as a corrupt cop, is excellent, but the film’s crowning achievement is the drug deal gone bad where the assumed perpetrator of mistrust has his penis thrust into a rabid badger’s cage. (103 minutes)