on February 06, 1998 by Dale Winogura
   A nasty, muddled film noir, inspired by Jim Thompson and the Coen brothers, "Ratchet" is a wretched waste of time. A hack Tinseltown screenwriter travels to Nantucket to work on a script, where he gets into a senselss mess of murder, blackmail and police coverups. With the exception of Tom Gilroy's hard-working lead portrayal, the characters are one-dimensional nobodies, including a lunatic writer (Matthew Dixon) and a local resident (Margaret Welsh) who functions as the lead's romantic interest.
   The tepid suspense, wan mystery and hopelessly convoluted plotting in John Johnson's script are rendered even more vacuous by his murky, gimmicky direction. Verbose dialogue and ambling pace fail to convey any sense of danger within this mundaneness. Johnson displays no artistry or sensibility in expressing the venality and violence on parade here, and cheap anti-Hollywood cynicism accomplishes nothing but the most pointless self-aggrandizement.    Starring Tom Gilroy and Margaret Welsh. Directed and written by John Johnson. Produced by George Belshaw and John Johnson. A Phaedra release. Suspense. Unrated. Running time: 112 min.
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