When con man Bill Hill (Christopher Walken) gets wind of this, he determines that Juvenal needs representation. This proves problematic. Juvenal is a recluse and worse, a not-for-profit faith healer.
So Hill hires a nice-looking confederate (Bridget Fonda) to befriend Juvenal, counting on her to find non-financial ways of persuading Juvenal to do the right thing and hit the talk-show circuit.
As a commentary on contemporary, home-grown spirituality, ``Touch'' is a smarter and wiser movie than ``Michael'' or ``Phenomenon,'' but it has its own problems - mainly a split personality.
``Touch'' is based on a wry, funny book by Elmore Leonard, whose ``Get Shorty'' was adapted into a hit movie a few years ago. ``Touch'' is directed by Paul Schrader, whose previous work has been anything but side-splitting - he wrote ``Taxi Driver'' and directed ``Light Sleeper.''
``Touch'' is essentially comic, but in Schrader's hands, you can feel a cataclysm trying to break out. He zeroes in on whatever gore he can find, like the blood that oozes from Juvenal's hands as he attempts to heal the sick.
On the other hand, Schrader doesn't always capture what is funny about the story. A subplot featuring Tom Arnold as a religious zealot gone bananas, for instance, never seems to hit the right note.
Schrader is better at satirizing the media, represented here by Gina Gershon as a talk-show piranha who covets Juvenal for the ratings bonanza he could provide should he actually cure someone on her program.
TOUCH * * 1/2 Produced by Lila Cazes and Fida Attieh, written and directed by Paul Schrader, music by David Grohl, distributed by United Artists.
Running Time: 97 minutes
Juvenal - Skeet Ulrich
Bill Hill - Christopher Walken
Lynn - Bridget Fonda
August Murray - Tom Arnold
Kathy Worthington - Janeane Garofalo
Artie - Paul Mazursky
Debra Lusanne - Gina Gershon
Antoinette Baker - Lolita Davidovich
Parents Guide: R; nudity, Tom Arnold
Showing at: Area theaters