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October 13, 1997 12:00 PM

Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Lopez

Take the title as an edict. Make an ambulatory U-turn at the box office before paying for a ticket to this one. Directed by Oliver Stone as if he hoped he might be hailed as the next Quentin Tarantino, U-Turn is a blood-splattered, gratingly smug filmnoir parody that may have amused all involved during the shooting but fails to elicit more than a faint chuckle or two on the big screen.

Penn plays a hapless small-time gambler to whom many nasty things happen after his vintage Mustang breaks down in a small Arizona desert town. These include the local hot pants (Lopez) and her old-coot hubby (Nolte) each recruiting him to murder the other. Anything kind to say? Well, Penn demonstrates a sure comic touch, and a buzz-cut Nolte, rambunctiously hammy, is at least fun to watch. (R)

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