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Love 'em and leave 'em--dead. That's the unstated but unmistakable motto of the predatory duo in Lonely Hearts, an affecting entry into the neo-noir landscape, with a twist: it's based on a true story. The all-star cast is led by John Travolta as detective Elmer Robinson, a dedicated cop haunted by the unexplained suicide of his wife. Travolta and his partner, played with blue-collar bravado by James Gandolfini, are old-style gumshoes who wear their characters as believably as they do their tattered fedoras. Travolta, particularly, wears his anguish on his tweedy sleeve, and underplays what could have been a scenery-chewing role. In the cops' crosshairs: evil lovebirds Martha Beck (Salma Hayek) and Ray Fernandez (Jared Leto), who prey on single women in "lonely hearts" advertisements, bilk them of their money, and! murder them--as much as a way to prove their twisted love for each other as for the financial gain. The film is uniformly well acted, and transports the viewer to a simpler America that nonetheless echoes modern-day internet dating and the perils that can accompany too much trust. Leto downplays his pretty-boy looks to become believable as the oily and unhinged Ray, and the gorgeous Hayek is made up to a fare-thee-well. Director Todd Robinson is the grandson of the real-life Elmer, and did the film as an homage to the case that consumed his grandfather. The making-of featurette is in some ways even more compelling than the feature, because of the moving interviews with the younger Robinson and his memories of his grandfather, and footage and news clips of the real-life Martha and Ray. There's plenty of fodder here for true-crime fans, and anyone who wants to savor a good shudder.

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CO18306 Lonely Hearts DVD (2007/John Travolta/Selma Hayek) $14.98 $12.49