Look, you just don’t know. If you run in film nerd circles or play a lot of Trivial Pursuit, it may at some point come up — the question of in which movie Jodie Foster is gifted with two penguins, one of which is subsequently beaten to death. Well, the answer is Five Corners. And I’m sure it’s a film to which John Hinckley could relate.
An unusual little 1987 flick starring Foster, John Turturro, and Tim Robbins, Five Corners is a period piece drama whose intensity of feeling and somewhat haughty sense of social-statement importance far exceed the grasp of its execution. It’s set in the Bronx in the early 1960s, and centers on Heinz Sabatino (Turturro), a scummy and not-quite-right-in-the-head kid newly released from prison, who returns to his old neighborhood with his stalking obsession for Linda Komkowski (Foster), the woman he attacked, unabated. There’s hatred, too, for Harry Fitzgerald (Robbins), a one-time friend who tried to protect Linda by crowning Heinz with a beer bottle, but Harry won’t re-engage with Heinz in antagonistic fashion, as he’s now a pacifist looking to hook on with the Freedom Riders and head south. Also thrown into the mix is Jamie (Todd Graff), Linda’s doofus ex-boyfriend, and a pair of cops who get sucked into things when Heinz starts acting out in aggressive fashion, and imperils Linda.
On the outside looking in, Five Corners‘ pedigree is impressive; there’s the cast, of course, and the script is by John Patrick Shanley, and the director is Tony Bill. Still, set against this chaotic backdrop of political and societal upheaval, the film goes to the well of metaphorical relevance a bit too often and heartily, and never really coalesces into anything more than a kind of passably engaging ping-pong drama — meaning something that holds one’s attention in stumble-bum fashion rather than with any precision. A massive and time-consuming subplot in which a couple of yahoos who seem to have wandered off the set of Happy Days hook up with a pair of drugged-out party girls and ride elevators goes nowhere. Well… actually, it “pays off,” if you will, in a late revelation that ties into a recent neighborhood murder involving a bow-and-arrow (yes, seriously), but these attempts at writerly parallelism come across as overly didactic, and never particularly realistic or thought-provoking.
Housed in a regular plastic Amaray case, Five Corners comes to DVD presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, with a Dolby digital 2.0 stereo track and optional English subtitles. There are unfortunately no supplemental bonus features here, which is really a shame, as the title’s star power merits if not a retrospective with some of the players’ thoughts on the movie (Foster has to have thought about the parallels to Hinckley when shooting the film) then certainly some sort of talking-head inclusion about it, which is easy and cheap enough to produce (I say this having taken part in a couple such interviews myself) should the right production company or distributor get hold of the rights. As is, this is a yawning curio, but only for completists… well, obsessed with the cast. Let’s hope Hinckley’s prison library doesn’t get a copy. To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. C- (Movie) C- (Disc)