(On Cable TV, April 2019) Some movies are far more interesting in retrospect than during their initial release. Maybe they feature filmmakers and actors who became big later; maybe they anticipated or helped create a cinematic movement; maybe they reflect their time so well that they become period pieces. And maybe sometimes all three, like Kalifornia. The marquee appeal of the film is obvious in hindsight—David Duchovny as a journalist travelling across the United while visiting serial killer shrines, offering a ride to a young couple played by Brad Pitt and Juliette Lewis who end up being serial killers themselves. While Lewis’s performance echoes the one in the following year’s Natural Born Killers, Pitt plays against type as a manifestation of pure id, uncouth and violent and absolutely fascinating to the protagonist. Kalifornia does feel very much of its time in content and presentation—the early 1990s were heavy on serial killers, and this film certainly tries for a meta-commentary on the trend. There’s probably a link between this film and the rise of the Tarantinoesque black comedy subgenre, built on a foundation of neo-noir plotting and stylish direction. The visual style here is very assured—director Dominic Sena makes his debut here, but he would later go on to direct two very stylish thrillers for Jerry Bruckheimer toward the end of the decade (and then two more rather ordinary films in 2009–2011, but that’s another review). Still, for all of the fancy camera moves and studied images appealing to pseudo-profundity, there isn’t a whole lot to the result beyond being yet another serial killer exploitation film—well shot but hollow. There’s no real understanding of the antagonist’s murderous motivation beyond simply being a cinematic psycho, and for all of the film’s superficial attempts at contemplation (such as the climax taking place on a deserted atomic test site), it doesn’t really lead to anything profound. The script fails to back up its own themes with anything beyond dull voiceover musings. Still, Kalifornia has aged better than many of its contemporaries—its enduring popularity is clearly linked to its lead actors, but it does remain a flavourful thriller with some visual style. It is more interesting than average … but not by much.