Release dateSeptember 8, 2003 (2003-09-08) (Toronto International Film Festival)
October 3, 2003 (2003-10-03) WriterJames Cox, Captain Mauzner, Todd Samovitz, D. Loriston Scott Music directorTerry Reid, Cliff Martinez, Michael A. Levine, Charles B. Kim CastVal Kilmer (John Holmes), Dylan McDermott (David Lind), Kate Bosworth (Dawn Schiller), Josh Lucas (Ron Launius), Lisa Kudrow (Sharon Holmes), Eric Bogosian (Eddie Nash) Similar moviesUnlawful Entry, New Best Friend, Mad Max: Fury Road, Irreversible, Gone Baby Gone, Let's Be Cops
TaglineSex, drugs, murder. Welcome to L.A.
Wonderland is a 2003 American crime drama film, co-written and directed by James Cox and based on the real-life Wonderland Murders that occurred in 1981. The film stars Val Kilmer, Kate Bosworth, Dylan McDermott, Carrie Fisher, Lisa Kudrow, Josh Lucas, Christina Applegate, Tim Blake Nelson, and Janeane Garofalo. Kilmer plays the role of John Holmes, a pornographic film star and suspected accomplice in four grisly murders committed in an apartment on Wonderland Avenue, in the Laurel Canyon section of Los Angeles. Mr. Holmes was famous for playing the role of "Johnny Wadd" in a related series of pornographic adult films.
The girlfriend of John Holmes, Dawn Schiller, is on the streets and picked up by a holy roller after Holmes leaves Schiller in a hotel room. Schiller eventually calls Holmes to come and get her. Holmes arrives at the apartment, and they have sex and snort cocaine in the bathroom. The next morning, while in a motel room, Dawn sees a newscast that states four people were murdered at a rowhouse on Wonderland Avenue, the same one she had earlier been at with Holmes. The story eventually moves on to two city detectives investigating the crime, Sam Nico and Louis Cruz, and their contact with Holmes. Another officer, Billy Ward, intervenes in the investigation.
David Lind's story
The next major character introduced is David Lind. He hears of his friends' murders at Wonderland and soon discovers his girlfriend was there. While at the crime scene, he is picked up by Nico and Cruz. Through Lind's story (told in flashbacks), we are introduced to some of the people who partied at Wonderland. These people, known as the Wonderland Gang, included Ron Launius and his wife Susan, Billy Deverell, Lind's 22-year-old girlfriend Barbara Richardson, and Joy Miller. Ron has a fondness for antique guns and frequently shows them off. When he learns that Holmes knows notorious gangster Eddie Nash, he gives Holmes a pair of stolen antique guns to take to Nash, so that Nash can fence them and the Wonderland Gang can split the loot. (Nash had befriended Holmes because of Holmes' notoriety as the porn film phenomenon Johnny Wadd.) Holmes takes the guns to Nash, but Nash says the guns are too rare to be sold, as they would be recognized right away and everyone involved would be apprehended. Rather than return the guns to Holmes, Nash keeps them for himself. Attempting to get back in the gang's good graces, Holmes suggests robbing Nash's home. Ron Launius is reluctant to go along with the robbery at first, but after Holmes gives him a rundown of what's there, he is eager to participate. Holmes volunteers to draw them a map to plan the robbery, since he has visited Nash's house frequently. Holmes then visits Nash to buy drugs, and on the way out leaves the kitchen door unlocked to give the Wonderland gang easy access.
The robbery of Eddie Nash
The next morning, Ron Launius, Lind, and Deverell carry out the robbery, while wheel-man Tracy McCourt waits outside in a car, serving as lookout. Neither Holmes nor any of the women is present when the robbery occurs. The Wonderland Gang gains access through the unlocked kitchen door and robs Nash at gunpoint. Lind accidentally fires his gun, wounding Nash's bodyguard, Greg Diles. The gang hurls racial epithets at Nash and Diles and walks away with over one million dollars in cash, jewels, and drugs. They bring their loot back to the Wonderland apartment to divide everything up. Holmes is unhappy with the cut he is given, even though he did not take part in the robbery and he's in debt to the gang.
Nash discovers Holmes was involved in the robbery, he has Holmes beaten and finds Holmes' little black book. He tells Holmes he will kill every person listed in the book, starting with Holmes' mother, if Holmes does not give up the men who robbed Nash.
July 1, 1981
The retaliation for the robbery is swift and fatal. On July 1, 1981, a group of Nash's henchmen (including Holmes), led by Diles, gains access to the apartment at Wonderland Avenue. Ron Launius, Deverell, Richardson, and Miller are all brutally beaten to death with striated lead pipes. Diles compels Holmes to deliver blows to Launius. Susan Launius is beaten but survives, and is questioned by Nico and Cruz in her hospital bed. She tells them (in a near comatose state) that she does not remember anything, only shadows. Lind is not present during the attacks.
The film received mixed to negative reviews from critics and received a 34% rating on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 101 reviews; the consensus states: "A sordid and pointless movie with some good performances." Roger Ebert gave the film a mediocre review, granting it two out of four stars, and saying: "True crime procedurals can have a certain fascination, but not when they're jumbled glimpses of what might or might not have happened involving a lot of empty people whose main claim to fame is that they're dead."