Search and Destroy

Director: David Salle
Screenwriters: Michael Almereyda, Howard Korder

Institute History

  • 1995 Sundance Film Festival


The remarkable collection of talent that has united to produce the filmic adaptation of Pulitzer Prize–nominee Howard Korder’s play, Search and Destroy, is unquestionably impressive. Beginning with the directorial debut of noted collage artist David Salle, screenwriting by Michael Almereyda, who collaborated with Salle, cinematography by Bobby Bukowski, and a stellar cast that includes Griffin Dunne, Dennis Hopper, John Turturro, Christopher Walken, and Illeana Douglas, to say nothing of guest appearances by Rosanna Arquette and Ethan Hawke, all under the stewardship of Martin Scorsese, this film raises quite high expectations (naturally). So it’s a great pleasure to proclaim that the vivid imagination and style, the terrific dialogue and wonderfully engaging performances that Search and Destroy assembles add up to a film which is at once wild and provocative, entertaining yet serious, and likely to please any viewer.

The story follows businessman Martin Mirkheim (Dunne), who, faced with a six-figure tax bill, is on the verge of bankruptcy and possibly divorce. He becomes a disciple of the philosophy of an early morning television guru, Dr. Luther Waxling (Hopper). Seeking Waxling out (or at least attempting to) in order to produce a film of his “all-American” novel, Daniel Strong, Mirkheim meets resistance but perseveres and ultimately joins forces with Waxling’s receptionist (Douglas), a closet screenwriter, in the pursuit of production capital.

Strange scenarios and colorful characters, ranging from the comically absurd to the simply madcap, rapidly succeed each other as the film spoofs the greed and single-mindedness of the entrepreneurial eighties. Turturro and Walken are both exceptional, and Salle’s mixture of realism and excess, theatre and cinema, results in a roaring, often exuberant, yet trenchant, commentary on modern life.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

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