Based on the stage play by Sam Shepard, this is theatre director Matthew Warchus's first foray into film and it's a pleasant run over the jumps.

Carter (Jeff Bridges) is a rich and successful horsebreeder, married to the beautiful Rosie (Sharon Stone). When he receives a phone call from Vinnie (Nick Nolte), their best friend some 20 years previously, asking for help, he finds his perfect life under threat from a betting scam they have kept secret for two decades. Vinnie sets out to right the wrongs he thinks they have done to Simms (Albert Finney, on fine form), while Carter and Rosie sink into despair.

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This is an engaging movie, which shows its theatrical origins, both positively and negatively. On the plus side, there is a sharp script, with crisp punchy dialogue, although somewhat confusing for the first 20 minutes, as the premise of the story is revealed little by little. This adds to the tension, while requiring considerable concentration from the viewer, as we ricochet from modern day to flashback, from Kentucky to California, in the blink of an eye.

Although the storyline is slight, the superb performances from the older experienced cast and the young actors, playing the teen trio, lift Simpatico above the norm. Bridges, Nolte and Stone are compelling, as individuals trying to come to terms with their past, and Finney is in his element as their nemesis, who has already come to terms with his. Catherine Keener's performance, too, is finely pitched.

The characterisation may be a little lacking and some of the personality changes rather swift, but with a cast of this calibre it's hard not to be carried away by their sheer ability to play these parts to the full.

In the end, Warchus wins his first race into film, if only by a nose.

Reviewed on: 18 Apr 2002
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A horse breeder finds his life under threat from a betting scam he perpetrated in his youth.
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Amber Wilkinson ***1/2

Director: Matthew Warchus

Writer: Matthew Warchus, David Nicholls, based on the play by Sam Shephard.

Starring: Nick Nolte, Jeff Bridges, Sharon Stone, Catherine Keener, Albert Finney, Shawn Hatosy, Kimberly Williams, Liam Waite, Whit Crawford, Bob Harter, Angus T. Jones

Year: 1999

Runtime: 106 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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