Keys to Tulsa (1997): Directed by Leslie Grief, Starring Eric Stoltz

The Tarantino effect seems to be in decline, judging by the failure of such offshoots as Keys to Tulsa (1997) or Very Bad Things (1998).

Harley Peyton’s script from Brian Fair Berkey’s novel is deft and witty, but Leslie Grief’s awkward direction in Keys to Tulsa lacks modulation and visual style.

This comic crime, a late-in-the-cycle Tarantino retread, mixes genre ingredients with fresh observations on class disparity, Great Plains lifestyles, and generational and family strains.

Gramercy could not distinguish this entry from other comic thrillers, which sent it to videostores rather quickly.

Tulsa’s Richter Boudreau (Eric Stoltz), a “black sheep son of a black sheep,” is about to lose his job as a film critic for the local paper. Though penniless, his eccentric, much-married socialite mother (Mary Tyler Moore) refuses to bail him out. This makes him vulnerable to the schemes of Ronnie Stover (James Spader), a drug-dealing low-life married to Richter’s sexy childhood friend, Vicky (Deborah Unger), who was disinherited when she married Ronnie.

Suffused with sexual innuendo and dark humor, the film is as concerned with Richter’s maturation as it is with resolving a murder. The tale runs the gamut of Oklahoma city’s social hierarchy, from the country club set to the trailer trash, as well as the downwardly mobile offspring of privileged families who have failed to uphold their ancestors’ traditions.