Fiendishly funny turns from Griffin Dunne, Christopher Walken and Illeana Douglas can’t save this excruciating film version of Howard Korder’s perverse hoot of an off-Broadway play. Korder satirized the greedy ’80s in telling the story of Martin Markheim (Dunne), a bankrupt promoter dumped by his wife (Rosanna Arquette), tossed from his condo and determined to make it in movies. Martin’s hero is Dr. Luthor Waxling (Dennis Hopper in another Mad Hatter role), a self-help guru on cable TV with an Übermensch novel, Daniel Strong, that Martin yearns to turn into a film. Luthor’s insolent assistant, Roger (Ethan Hawke), gives Martin the brush, but his receptionist, Marie (Douglas), takes him to heart and to bed. Martin ends up producing Marie’s slasher script after two shady types, Ron (John Turturro) and Kim (Walken), involve him in drugs, extortion and murder.
Korder plundered the dark side of the American dream for glints of gallows humor. Director David Salle, the artist turned auteur, won’t stoop to wit. The pop-art flatness he gives the film is almost as enervating as his arty attitude, which hints that he gets the joke but we, the ignorant audience, will have to work for it. No sale.