Tuesday, July 19, 2011

3 paragraphs on Into The Night

1985, John Landis -- Netflix

It's remarkable to me how so many '80's films in the action genre took so little time or effort to create a believable established normal life for their protagonist. At the start of Into the Night we meet Ed Okin (Jeff Goldblum) who has insomnia, hates his mundane job, feels disconnected from his wife (whom he soon discovers is cheating on him), and has a general sense of malaise. This is all rather quickly dispensed and there's never any sense of connection established between Ed and the world he lives in. I get that this is the point, in part, but as a result the audience never connects to Ed. So when Ed is thrust in the middle of a murder/kidnapping gone wrong, and he finds the drop-dead gorgeous Diana (a radiant Michelle Pfeiffer) in the passenger seat of his car, Ed just kind of rolls with it. He asks questions that get him little to no answers, and he never really pushes for any. He's essentially just tagging along for the ride on the Diana crazy train. Ultimately the story wouldn't be all that much different without him.

The stolen jewels caper Diana finds herself in, as well, is ridiculously underdeveloped (or perhaps ridiculously overdeveloped). Diana knows she's in danger, but she's not sure who from. Meanwhile the Iranians who are after her, a bumbling quartet let by John Landis as head stooge, seem to be one step behind her every way, with no real logic as to how they found themselves there. Things only get more convoluted with the introduction of David Bowie as a ruthless assassin working for a Frenchman also after the jewels. Like any odd-man-in caper, Ed is thrust from one dangerous situation to another which he handles with sleepless indifference. But this isn't Insomnia, you rarely get the sense that Ed all that tired, instead he just seems struck with Goldblum-itis.

Landis was trying, and trying hard, to make a big-time romantic-action-comedy romp, full of nudity, violence, and sight gags but the plentiful gaps in logic keep it from succeeding, despite some likeable characters and a few fun set pieces. The film also is too inside-Hollywood at times, an elaborate scene on a film set provides a handful of groan inducing gags, meanwhile, in a fun-but-distracting bit of casting, many of the film's extras are played by Landis' behind the scenes buddies like David Cronenberg, Amy Heckerling, Rick Baker and Jim Henson. Also dragging the film down is a painfully '80's "contemporary" score from B.B. King, one of those atrocious phases where a great musician tries desperately to have is music be relevant to a then-modern audience by including whatever the music trends of the day were. Yet, the film is not unlikeable, it's certainly not unwatchable (Landis was clearly in love with Pfeiffer as there's not a single shot she doesn't look fantastic in), and it's even somewhat entertaining, it's just that it's not very good.