As Neo-Noir’s go, this one excels because it’s a performance piece working successfully in tandem with stylistic and narrative genre conventions. As ex-boxer/vagrant Kevin “Kid” Collins, Jason Patric gives an astoundingly original take on the fateful Noir hero, showing a man ridiculed past comprehension by an unforgiving society, and in turn destined to entangle himself in a web of deceit trying to find salvation. Collins, while not stupid, speaks slowly and wields a devastating left hook, a distinction that both entices Rachel Ward and Bruce Dern’s scheming couple to invite him into their dirty plan. Director James Foley uses bleached California colors wonderfully, highlighting the seedy characters with palm tree green and cherry station wagon red. The whole experience plays like a somber death march toward the inevitable, each character manipulating the risks and rewards with razor sharp wit and stylized Chandler-esque verbiage. Even if Foley lose track of time in the second act, his film stays true to the genre while subverting it with pitch perfect characterizations of hope and sacrifice. A deadly combo in the Noir world.