Lonely Hearts is based on a true story from the 1940s.
Haunted by his wife's mysterious suicide, street-wise homicide detective Elmer Robinson (John Travolta) is pining away behind a paper-piled desk, having lost his zeal for crime fighting. When he winds up on a case involving a seemingly inexplicable suicide of a young woman, he becomes dangerously invested. Warned by his partner (James Gandolfini) that there is no case for murder and that his objectivity is suspect, the two soon find themselves on the bloody trail of the "lonely hearts" killers.
Travolta's character -- the real-life grandfather of writer and director Todd Robinson -- is morose and vulnerable, yet possessed of inner strength. Travolta and Gandolfini each have a strong presence on the screen, and together they deliver a powerful performance. Leto and Hayek play their sociopathic roles brilliantly while keeping the characters disturbingly believable. Cinematography, costuming and period-replication are first-rate. If Lonely Hearts has a weakness, it's that Robinson's character development and the impetus for his personal mission are unclear. His story is not quite compelling enough to compete with the bizarre drama of his quarry. Overall, the film is engaging and well produced. It's curious that it slipped under the radar, showing locally only at the Coeur d'Alene Film Festival. Maybe the DVD release will awaken interest in this box-office sleeper. (Rated R)