Shortly after his wife commits suicide and he volunteers himself to a desk job, Detective Robinson (Travolta) is lured back into the investigative front when another woman turns up dead in a bathtub--a “suicide” that Robinson and the obvious screenplay (by Robinson) are eager to alert the audience is eerily similar to that of his wife’s. With Travolta, we see his strain—not as a guilt-ridden widower seeking answers, but as a struggling actor.
His partners on the case (which quickly ties in with Fernandez and Beck) are Charles Hildebrandt (Gandolfini, who would fit more snugly as an Edward G. Robinson henchman than a hero) and Detective Reilly (Scott Caan), who is treated as a bizarre experiment in character development, going from hawk to worm in a snap. Both men have proven themselves as capable actors (though Gandolfini hasn’t yet shaken the Tony Soprano mannerisms), it’s just a shame they’re handed paper-thin personalities.
Same goes for the killers. Leto (who without a rug, looks more like John Cazale than any womanizer I’ve ever seen) and Hayek draw caricatures, no doubt a trait they bring with their acting chops. But director Robinson shouldn’t be let off the proverbial hook that easily—he has supplied simplified, robotic versions of undoubtedly deep, emotional figures, barring the audience a needed injection of realism.
Cinematographer Peter Levy meshes two worlds together beautifully; from the noir stylings of your favorite Bogie picture to the Malick (or at least Sugarland Express)-esque landscapes. Camerawork aside, the film displays a number of startling images: blood pouring from a police officer’s head like cranberry juice; a snow white angel laying naked and lifeless in a bathtub; foam emerging below the mask of the executed.
Todd Robinson’s Lonely Hearts is a decent, if undesired and irregularly accurate retelling of the true story of a suave, money-hungry Hawaiian and his kitty cat.