John Holmes is so famous, he's infamous (as the Three Amigos would say). This is a Rashomon-like story about the events surrounding the Wonderland Murders of the early 1980's, in Los Angeles. The story is pieced together from the retelling of a few of the participants. There is story from the friend's perspective, namely David Lind (played by Dylan McDermott). He is a participant in the robbery assault at Eddie Nash's place (Eddie Nash is a infamous drug dealer - and is the suppose to be the same character Alfred Molina played in Boogie Nights) and is heavily into the drug scene. There is John Holmes' perspective (played by Val Kilmer), which makes him out to be a pawn stuck between two kings (with a severe case of cocaine cravings). There is also the patchwork recollections of John's wife (Sharon - played by Lisa Kudrow) and his girlfriend (Dawn - played by Kate Bosworth) that fill in the spaces between the two stories. It is basically the same time frame that we are looking at, just each character's version. The only thing that is missing is the perspective from the dead people.
Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights portrays John Holmes as a slightly heroic character, with a tragic yet comedic karma. He is a caricature of a real person. He was more of less, a mixed up kid that got what he got through his "large" endowment. Director James Cox turns the comedy off and makes this episode in John's life into a nightmare for all of us watching. The details of the real life murders make this movie even more eerie.
Val Kilmer took what he learned of Jim Morrison, from the Doors, enhanced the performance for the Salton Sea, and then further enhanced that to bring us the deterioration of John Holmes through cocaine. All of the actors pull off very realistic looking portrayal's of cocaine junkies. Josh Lucas' performance stands out as one of the best in the movie. He plays Ron Launius (I think this character is suppose to be the same as the Thomas Jane character from Boogie Nights). Ron was the leader of the gang, loved having John Holmes around as a novelty and had a cocaine craving like sharks enjoy blood. The cocaine use seems so realistic as to make one think. Did they really use Splenda ??
Where Boogie Nights has a bubblegum pop feel to it (lots of color and 70's nostalgia), Wonderland is dark. The action is fast and furious, with a lot of jumps. It is twitchy and grainy. There is no comedy, just a never ending pace, as if the director is trying to put us into the nervous, fast paced, edgy cocaine high to make us feel what the characters are feeling. This is a graphic movie. It has one of the most intensely violent scenes I have ever seen in a movie. It actually shows the murders themselves (through the eyes of John Holmes at first and then from a third person perspective). It is so graphic, it looks like police evidence of a crime. I had to pause after this scene and remind myself this was just a movie. This movie is definitely not recommended for everyone. I recommend it as a good alternative to Boogie Nights, for those interested in the other sides of John Holmes.