As Blood and Wine nears its final reel, Jack Nicholson pulls himself out of a hammock in a flailing effort notable for its lack of grace. It is obvious he is not ready for what is coming at him – an experience that an audience ill-prepared for this film might share.
Blood and Wine is the latest installment in the Kansas City Public Library’s Off-the-Wall Film Series : the film starts at sundown (8:45 p.m. at the earliest) on Friday, August 19, on the Rooftop Terrace of the Central Library, located at 14 W. 10th St. This film series features film selections by Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert, who has curated an entire summer of must-see cinema exclusively for the Kansas City Public Library.
Nothing in this film comes easy: murder, betrayal, sex and even polite conversation are not entered into with the effortless blasé attitude that is the Hollywood standard.
There is no doubting this film’s credentials as a Hollywood product, thanks to its inclusion in the 20th Century Fox catalogue – and there is no doubting its viability as cult material: the Internet Movie Database  estimates its gross domestic box office as barely more than $1 million, a truly pathetic return by any standard.
What kept audiences away? In short: Blood and Wine does not subscribe to any standard Hollywood format. Ebert describes the film quite simply as a “throwback,” and others rather fittingly call it a “neo-noir,” but it is the type of film that does not telegraph its movements and does not hammer viewers mercilessly with every plot development.
Why should audiences embrace this film? Because it does not insult the audience with a focus-group tested resolution – this film offers no heroes, no winners, and no happy ending. Ebert praises Nicholson for giving one of his best performances and also spreads compliments around for the entire (and entirely deserving) cast.
Blood and Wine stars Nicholson with Michael Caine, Stephen Dorff, Judy Davis, and Jennifer Lopez. Directed by Bob Rafelson. It is rated R. (101 min.)
About the Author
Paul Smith  is a Communications Specialist for the Kansas City Public Library. His responsibilities include coordinating all film screenings at the Central Library, including the Off-the-Wall Film Series since 2008.