Ruby, the new film about assassin Jack Ruby, has the misfortune of being released after Oliver Stone's controversial and powerful JFK. Timing of release and marketing (positioning, as they say in Hollywood) are crucial in today's movie market, though Ruby is so conventional and routine that, I suspect, with the best timing and publicity the film would have failed to become the media (and box-office) event its makers hoped for.

Danny Aeillo is perfectly cast as a small-time owner of a strip club in Dallas with big-time aspirations–hooking up with the Mafia. But, as if the movie didn't trust its “hero,” the plot shifts back and forth from Ruby to Candy Cane (Sherilyn Fenn, of TV's Twin Peaks fame), a small-town girl, who Ruby picks at a bus station and turns into a famous stripper. The film is disingenuous–Cane is supposedly a composite character of several women, but she is not only made to look like Marilyn Monroe, she also enacts episodes from the star's life.

Ruby represents yet one more effort in the recent cycle of films about conspiracy. And if it has any distinction, it is in making explicit what other movies speculated or hinted about the CIA. But because there is not much new information, even the conspiracy theorists (and paranoids) would not have fun watching this film.

The story could have been much more interesting, if Ruby's personality as the outsider par excellence were explored. For example, the fact that he was Jewish is mentioned in passing, and his specific connections to the Mob and the CIA are never made clear. Worse, the movie never bothers to explain Ruby's motivation for shooting Lee Harvey Oswald. Judging by what's on screen, Ruby is just not interesting enough to be the protagonist of a film. He begins and ends as a small-time hood, a patsy, with ambitions that never get accomplished.

Ruby's format resembles many made-for-TV biopictures, though it lacks the “juicy” and scandalous episodes of such fare. Under the plodding direction of John Mackenzie (The Long Good Friday), the film's style is that of the gangster and noir films of the l940s, rather than a suspenseful political thriller.