Ironically, this passion project for writer/director Todd Robinson is undone in no small part by Travolta's inability to do precisely that—which one imagines must be particularly galling to Robinson, who is the grandson of the real-life Nassau County cop Travolta is playing here.
It's understandable that the workaholic detective—wrestling with grief and guilt over his wife's sudden suicide, shown in the opening scene—is downbeat, but Travolta makes only a half-hearted attempt to convey those wrenching emotions, mostly by mumbling and looking sleepy all the time.
And “sleepy” is exactly how the audience will look. The greatest strength that Robinson brings to Lonely Hearts —his intimate knowledge of the “top dick” on the case—is also the picture's greatest weakness because Travolta's performance is nowhere near as compelling as Salma Hayek and Jared Leto's as the murderous Martha Beck and Ray Fernandez, a couple of con artists who targeted war widows who advertised in “lonely hearts” magazines with names like Cupid's Crossroads.
Unfortunately, the only juice in
comes from the thousands of volts shooting through the electric chair in which Martha and Ray are executed in back-to-back scenes that are disturbingly detailed and drawn out.
Distributor: Roadside Attractions/Samuel Goldwyn
Cast: John Travolta, James Gandolfini, Salma Hayek, Jared Leto, Scott Caan and Laura Dern
Director/Screenwriter: Todd Robinson
Producers: Holly Wiersma and Boaz Davidson
Genre: Crime drama
Rating: R for strong violence and sexual content, nudity and language
Running time: 108 min.
Release date: April 13, 2007 ltd