They're off on the road to Toronto. But this isn't a jaunty Hope/Crosby classic comedy. Rather, Marcy (The Craft's Robin Tunney), the victim of a serious neurological disorder called Tourette's Syndrome, and Seth (E.T.'s Henry Thomas), the emotionally damaged son of an abusive father, are on a four-wheel mission to cross the border in search of a toy. The two meet 'uncute' while shoplifting, a hobby both skillfully embrace. Marcy, obviously as spoiled as she is rich, is determined to find a certain doll's head that the local store doesn't carry. She and Seth decide to head north to Toronto in search of said head.

On the road, the pair-with Seth at the wheel-bump into some figurative roadblocks meant to fuel, if not speed up, the plot: Their attempts to buy liquor are thwarted because they are underage; Marcy's efforts to fill a prescription for her illness (her Tourette's symptoms include uncontrollable physical tics and explosive bouts of cursing) fail because she doesn't have a valid prescription. The film's often unpalatable palette of visuals also includes much bloodletting, vomit, spittle, and violence towards animals.

The frustration regarding Marcy's medication results in a gun battle with a trigger-happy and stubborn pharmacist that sends the two protagonists-who have become lovers-on the run from the police. Before arriving in Toronto and during some particularly unnecessary violent escapades at the sleazy complex where a bedraggled auto-parts worker (also gun-happy) gives them shelter, Marcy really snaps.

Tunney, who won the Best Actress Award at last summer's Venice Film Festival for her performance, is often mesmerizing as the afflicted young woman. Niagara Niagara also boasts a fine soundtrack and was appealingly lensed in upstate New York. (The title's reference to the Falls at the New York-Canadian border apparently refers to the inexorable rush of nature and its power that drive Tunney's character and her violent actions.)

Niagara Niagara marks the entry of scrappy indie The Shooting Gallery (Laws of Gravity, Sling Blade) into the distribution arena. The Gallery has also come out shooting in its efforts to build what it boasts will be the East Coast's biggest film studio complex in New Jersey. As it moves to fulfill the needs of production, perhaps the company will also take more careful aim at distributing films with greater audience appeal.

--Doris Toumarkine