As a handful of out-of-character film roles and hilarious New Yorker essays prove, comedy is just one element in Steve Martin's bag of tricks. Novocaine seizes upon Martin's underused versatility in an eclectic noir-comedy blend. Unremarkable Frank Sangster (Martin) is a dentist engaged to his demure assistant (Laura Dern). Susan (Helena Bonham Carter, reprising her Fight Club role) breezes into his office one day, with a seductive approach to painkillers that launches Frank's world into a giddy spin-out filled with nasty characters and narrative twists.
Alternately tongue-in-cheek, grim, and banal, Novocaine threatens its own coherency by cycling through so many moods so quickly. However, the cast—Martin, Bonham Carter, Scott Caan, and Elias Koteas—relishes scooting around the borders of genre and so attack the material with zeal. A darkly comedic bent further recommends Novocaine.