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you know the plot : a dimwit with a shady past is seduced into committing a crime only to be double-crossed by a fatal femme .
in " palmetto , " the dimwit is harry barber ( woody harrelson ) , a reporter who's just been released from prison ( he was framed by the gangsters and corrupt officials he was investigating ) .
enter la femme : rhea malroux ( elisabeth shue ) , the sexy young wife of the richest man in palmetto , florida ( rolf hoppe ) .
she and her stepdaughter odette ( chlo ? sevigny ) have a plot to extort 500k from the old man : harry will " kidnap " odette .
after groping both women , harry agrees .
as everyone except harry can see , he's being set up as a fall guy .
sure enough , before long , harry has a dead body in his trunk and the cops on his tail .
his brother-in-law ( tom wright ) , an assistant da , has hired harry to be the press liaison for the case , so harry gets a front row seat for his own manhunt ( and we get to watch him sweat-literally ) .
there are several plot twists , of course-a couple of them even took me by surprise .
apparently every woman in palmetto is a raving horndog , and they're on harry like he's the only bone in the kennel .
shue vamps so broadly that i expected tex avery's wolf to show up .
her incredible performance in " leaving las vegas " seems to have been a fluke .
here , she could easily be mistaken for melanie griffith .
shue's character is supposed to be a savvy schemer but she comes off as a brainless bimbo .
in addition to shue and sevigny , the kennel includes gina gershon ( who filled the dimwit-with-a-shady-past role in " bound " ) as harry's girlfriend nina ; when harry gets out of jail , she licks his face ( now there's a horndog ) .
the parts are so overplayed that with a little push " palmetto " could have been an over-the-top parody of film noir a la " romeo is bleeding . "
as it is , it's best watched at 2am on showtime ( the love scenes seem to have been written for one of that channel's soft porn programs anyway ) .
" palmetto " has a well-known director , volker schl ? ndorff , who's best known for his adaptations of major literary works , especially " the tin drum . "
i suppose he must have been drawn to this plot-by-numbers script by the same admiration for classic film noir that led scorsese to remake " cape fear . "
schl ? ndorff tries hard-he makes an interesting motif out of the ubiquitous palmetto bugs-but nothing can freshen up this stale script .