Susan Granger’s review of “THE GENERAL’S DAUGHTER” (Paramount Pictures)
Based on Nelson DeMille’s best-selling thriller, this is serious sleaze. Set on a swampy Southern Army base, the lurid story mixes rape and murder with betrayal and serious questioning of powerful West Point principles. John Travolta stars as a Criminal Investigation Divison Warrant Officer who is assigned to solve a bizarre crime. The nude, dead body of the daughter (Leslie Stefanson) of a distinguished General (James Cromwell) with political ambitions is found spread-eagled and staked to the ground in the middle of a training field. Whodunit? And why? He and his partner, rape counselor Madeleine Stowe, are given 36 hours to come up with discreet military answers before the FBI launch their own investigation. Who could have a motive to kill the beautiful West Point graduate who worked in the Psychological Operations Unit? Everyone, it seems. From the woman’s Commanding Officer (the always suspicious James Woods) to the base’s Provost Marshal (Timothy Hutton), who seems to pop up repeatedly in odd places, to the General’s fiercely loyal Adjutant (Clarence Williams III). “How she died seems to be tied to the way she lived,” Travolta astutely observes, after uncovering some decidedly freaky films detailing the woman’s promiscuous, sordid sex life. Writers Christopher Bertolini and William Goldman pepper the script with flippant banter, as if they couldn’t make up their minds about how seriously to take the grisly, gruesome subject matter, and director Simon West repeatedly contrives to return to the sordid, brutal crime scene as the murky melodrama unfolds to its ironic, if unlikely, conclusion. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The General’s Daughter” is a perversely kinky 4. It’s tortuous, tormented, and trashy.