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There are few films which boast such a first-rate cast:Christopher
Plummer,Morgan Freeman ,Sigourney Weaver,James Woods ..And like in
Hitchcock's "family plot" (1975),there are two apparently independent
plots:on one hand,a shady business man's murder and a Vietnam veteran
who becomes a janitor in the same building;on the other hand, a network
which helps the Jews immigrate into the US.A fine thread connects the
two stories:Weaver is the daughter of Jews who belong to this network
and the fiancée (?) of one of them;and she's also a TV reporter who
covers the affair I mention above;and she is also the janitor's
When,after after almost one hour,the two plots become one,they do not hang well together(in Hitchcock's "family plot" ,the connection was very smart:a simple movement of the camera followed Karen Black ).And in spite of two spectacular scenes ,the rabid dog,and the horses which give the movie a fantastic touch,the story is at once implausible and predictable .Also handicapped by pointless minor characters such as Woods' sister and Hurt's father.This film does not rank among Peter Yates 'best.
This 1981 murder thriller, from a big studio with big stars of the
time, with corny vintage taglines and advertisements, is good
entertainment squarely because it pays more application to its people
than its story. It's indubitably set in America, from the innards of a
Manhattan boiler room to the newsroom of a TV station, even though it's
about such real, involved, curious, and occasionally hilarious people
that it have got to at the least be transatlantic.
This underrated neo-noir stars William Hurt as a janitor who happens upon proof that could lead to the conclusion of a murder investigation. But he doesn't go to the police with it because he's too reticent, too reflective, too doubtful of what he's seen and, mainly, he's too much in love from a distance with Sigourney Weaver's TV news reporter. Perhaps he can gain her regard by giving her the inside story.
There are other dilemmas. Sigourney Weaver's fiancée is an Israeli agent played by Christopher Plummer, who is embroiled in cloak-and-dagger overseas interventions to smuggle Jews out of the Soviet Union. His plan concerns secret fees to a corrupt Vietnamese agent who has now moved to Manhattan. The other characters include James Woods, as Hurt's impetuous and short-fused best friend and recently fired colleague, and Steven Hill and Morgan Freeman as a couple of stoic cops who ponderously trace leads in the case. One of their memorably stoic quips: "When Aldo was a little boy, he must have wanted to be a suspect when he grew up."
The advancement and resolution of the murder mystery are handled rather conventionally by director Peter Yates, who made some great thrillers like The Hot Rock and Bullitt, and his screenwriter, Steve Tesich. A climactic showdown in a midtown riding stable and its barely existent denouement has a touch of every thriller from the 1980s. But what makes this movie so enjoyable is the way Yates and Tesich and their characters play against our assumptions. It shows that there really is no excuse for a lack of cutting edge or creative spirit in genre films, because this one achieves a very poised harmony of the familiar and the original, predictability and unpredictability. Genres rely upon the audience's savvy and familiarity, on the seasoning they've stengthened from seeing movies and the frame of comparable encounters from they can evoke.
Weaver is not only a TV newswoman, but also a determined pianist on the side and the dejected daughter of her oppressive parents. Hurt is not only a janitor but also an emotional introvert, an animal lover who can rhapsodize his way into Weaver's heart. Woods is not only an unhinged janitor but also the forceful advocate of a marriage between his sister and Hurt. Hurt and the sister continue the engagement because they are both too nice to tell the other one they're not in love. And as a mystery thriller, it gives us multiple conceivable suspects and resolutions to the murder it sets up as a way of misleading us until the proper time to reveal the killer.
I've seen so many thrillers that, honestly, I don't always care that much how they resolve lest they're particularly well-crafted. What I like about this buried gem is that, where it has regard for how it turns out, it has even more regard for the essence of its scenes. There's not a scene in this movie that just constitutes plot information. Every scene defines characters. And they're developed in such uncommon integrity to the way people do act that we get all the more consumed in the mystery, merely considering that we comparatively trust it could actually be real. Actually, I'm going to buckle and say that there is one tagline for this movie that is pretty good: "You're never more vulnerable than when you've seen too much."
William Hurt and Sigourney Weaver are lovely to look at in their early acting days, but this convoluted plot from sometimes-talented screenwriter Steve Tesich takes both stars down a dead-end road. News-reporter Weaver believes janitor Hurt may have seen something the night a businessman was killed in an office building, but he--harboring a crush on her--is just playing footsie, that is until the killers find out about him. Opening 20 minutes are fine, if not thrilling; the production is glossy and the leads are well-matched. However, the picture gets bogged down in contrivances and overwitten characters, such as Weaver's parents and Christopher Plummer as a sinister Israeli. Director Peter Yates' energy peters out fast; his finale, in particular, is dreadful. *1/2 from ****
Slightly offbeat murder yarn dealing with a pair of misfits who become involved in a murder which had nothing to do with either of them. This causes one of them to be targeted by an assassin who is involved in a love triangle between a woman and his intended victim. Strange film with a taut ending.
William Hurt stars as the brooding janitor in this sub-Hitchcockian thriller directed by Peter Yates (Bullitt). No-one in the film is quite what they seem, and Hurt plays the role of ambivalent hero/anti hero intelligently. Sigourney Weaver shows what a fine actress she really is whilst Christopher Plummer adds gravitas to the proceedings. Like Benton's Still Of The Night the film is well-crafted and often intriguing. Definitely well worth watching.
William Hurt plays a Manhattan Janitor named Daryl Deaver, who is
obsessed with a local newswoman named Tony Sokolow(played by Sigourney
Weaver). When a Vietnamese man with a shady past is murdered in Daryl's
building, he takes full advantage of meeting his crush by insinuating
that he knows more about the murder than he does. Tony goes along with
him, flattered but unsure. When the true killers get wind of Daryl's
story, they plan on eliminating him, and before they know it, their
really is a conspiracy to report...
Good acting by its fine cast(which includes James Woods, Morgan Freeman, and Christopher Plummer) cannot save this contrived and unconvincing mystery, which just doesn't amount to much.
Parts are slow, and parts are non-sequitirs that don't quite add up. But the dialogues is marvelous, the acting terrific, and the suspense constant. Great bits by James Woods, Christopher Plummer, Stephen Hill, and Morgan Freeman add to the irony and the enjoymnent. It's fun to watch William Hurt before he got so jaundiced.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
William Hurt, as the janitor, knows what's going on, and he loves
reporter Sigourney Weaver, the daughter of immigrants who are involved
in getting out Jews from the Soviet Union.
The problem with this film is that the plight of Soviet Jews is stated but once in a sentence or so. It's because of these people that we had such a story to begin with and we could have seen the victims in relation to the murder. In other words, we needed a script conference here to do some real rewriting, or shall we say editing.
Christopher Plummer plays his villain part with relish, but he too is given little to work with. Irene Worth is wasted as Sigourney's mother, up to her neck in intrigue insofar as rescuing the Jewish people. James Woods, as young as ever here, is also wasted as the janitor-friend suspected in the killings.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Peter Yates film from the pen of Steve Tesich is a relatively low key
"thriller" that doesn't really manage to get off the ground. Story
concerns the mysterious murder of an influential Asian business man and
the subsequent implication of a pathetic Vietnam veteran (James Woods)
who, the police believe, may have taken revenge on his ex-employer. As
the "Eyewitness", William Hurt never believes his friend is capable of
such an act.
Hurt is well below his usual strength, and one finds it hard to sympathise with him or an uninspired Sigourney Weaver. James Woods and Christopher Plummer do a little better in their support roles. Worth noting is the appearance of Morgan Freeman as Detective Black.
In retrospect Steve Tesich's story is only an unlikely romance dressed up as a mystery flick. The plot is far too contrived.
Friday, October 17, 1997 - Video
This movie is great fun to see William Hurt, James Woods and Sigourney Weaver at the beginnings of their careers and when they were experiencing a good deal of success. The rest of the cast is top-notch. The story is very interesting and effective, though I found the film a bit uneven and slow.
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