Ten-ton commemorative monument, forged by Danny DeVito out of swooping cranes and swelling adagios and a two-thirds empty widescreen -- as puffed-up and stiff as the body of Jack Nicholson in the title role. (What would you say, doctor? Napoleonic overcompensation on the part of a diminutive director?) Still, the David Mamet script -- vernacular poetry reverberant with his echo effects ("We talkin' words here, Dally? We usin' words?") and sprinkled liberally with his "cocksucker," "motherfucker," and the like -- has a lot of flavor, and the former Teamster president's arrival at prison packs an emotional wallop, and the flashback construction from the day of his mysterious and much-joked-about disappearance produces some sustaining suspense. (The theory put forward at the end is vulnerable to the seen-too-many-movies rebuttal.) Still again, Nicholson's caricaturish impersonation becomes repetitious fast, and makes the movie seem even longer than its nearly two-and-a-half hours. With Armand Assante and DeVito. 1992.

Duncan Shepherd

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