Centred around the infamous porn star, John Holmes, Wonderland focuses on the downfall after Holmes’ successful career in the industry whereby Holmes’ friends or Holmes himself rob the richest gangster in LA, in a quest to fund their immense drug habit. After the event occurs, the gangster orders the homicide of the four friends, leading to the 1981 Hollywood Hills murder, aided or not aided by Holmes himself.
Sound confusing? It should be, because the story is incomplete and the details of the event are still unclear, even to this day. After Holmes’ death in 1988, the case was dismissed due to insufficient evidence and a conclusion was never reached.
Wonderland focuses on two accounts – one by Holmes and one by an acquaintance, Lind. James Cox attempts to give both Lind’s and Holmes’ versions of the heist while ultimately eradicating room for bias. In this, he succeeds when the confusion sets in. Unlike 99% of films, there is no clear cut ending – intriguing for some but unsettling for most.
Cox’s directing, however, is superb. Jerky camera movements and the use of newspaper articles to define specific moments in time, cleverly separate the lives of Holmes and those he knew to the outside world, and show how unaware the public were of a life that was so reliant on drugs.
Val Kilmer, who plays John Holmes, acts with such desperation and conviction, it becomes hard to separate him from the character. His lead role teamed with Lisa Kudrow’s, whose role of Holmes’ estranged wife is a far cry from her 10-year slot as Phoebe in Friends, produce several scenes of convincing performances.
The acting, though, is mostly overshadowed by the immeasurable amount of violence incorporated in the film that, at times, is of such a graphic nature it is hard to watch.
Wonderland, with the directing genius of Cox, portrays the life of Holmes’ without glamourisation or falsity and can leave the viewer to come to their own conclusion on the events. The over-the-top violence though, at some points almost appearing too real, ensures that Wonderland is definitely not for the squeamish.