Film Noir: After Dark, My Sweet

1990

Directed By: James Foley

Screenplay By: Robert Redlin & James Foley – based upon the novel by:  Jim Thompson

Starring: Jason Patric, Rachel Ward, Bruce Dern

Based on the novel by Jim Thompson, one of the cornerstones of hardboiled crime fiction, this is a contemporary take on film noir.

Last summer, I attended a lecture about Raymond Chandler and the lecturer commented that contemporary attempts at film noir rarely hit the mark because noir is much more suited to period pieces.  For example, Chinatown; made in the seventies and set in the thirties and, expanding the theory, Bladerunner; made in the eighties and set in 2019.

Whilst I still think that this is a sweeping generalisation to make; a film such as After Dark, My Sweet does support the theory.

  Jason Patric plays Kevin “Kid” Collins, an ex-pro boxer down on his luck drifting through California following his recent escape from a mental hospital.  In a small town he encounters the alluring Fay (Rachel Ward) and the creepy Uncle Bud (Bruce Dern) and, having been mistaken for being all brawn and no brain, he is drawn into a kidnap plot.

This film has little potential to make it a cracking film noir and it is severely lacking in a coherent plot and absorbing characters.  It also abandons any real attempt to produce a film noir style and instead opts for wide angle shots of blue sky and the desert locations; perfect for a film such as The Hitcher, where the illustration is how desolate and lonely the environment is, but for this movie it looks like an attempt to spruce up an un-dramatic scenario with dramatic locations.

Jason Patric sleepwalks his way through the movie.  Bruce Dern shows a distinct lack of menace or threat to anyone.  Rachel Ward is extremely disappointing; her monotone delivery lacks any hint of personality and her characterisation of Fay is charmless. 

Considering Foley’s pedigree (At Close Range & Glengarry Glen Ross), this effort seems to rest closer to his Madonna collaborations (Papa Don’t Preach and Who’s that Girl) in that the whole thing seems a bit too clean.  This is a story of the down and dirty, yet it looks like a clean cut TV movie. 

And the film’s score, by Maurice Jarre, sounds more suited to a twilight zone episode or the Stephen King “It!” mini-series.

Noir Cynicism 05/10: everyone is a bit shady, but strictly small time and a little idiotic.
Noir Femme Fatale 02/10: Fay should be the one that makes you feel like you want to save her from herself, but Ward’s performance leaves you more inclined to move on and forget about her.
Noir Anti-Hero 06/10: An ex-boxer, an ex-mental patient and a drifter; he pretty much ticks all the boxes, but loses points due to Patric’s inept performance.
Noir Crime 05/10: a kidnap plot that doesn’t quite work out.
Noir Dough ? It’s never mentioned explicitly, although Uncle Bud does mention to Kid Collins that it is enough money for him to never have to work again.
Noir Body Count 3
Noir Style 01/10: the point is for the title.
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