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James Earl Jones,
Fay Forrester, an attractive young lady wants to escape from her violent and jealous boyfriend Vince. So she hires Jack Andrews, a second class private investigator to arrange her death. She wants to restart her life with a new identity and the money she robbed together with Vince. Because of Jack's financial problems he joins Fay after her fake death. Unfortunately Vince finds out that Fay's still alive. The hunt for Jack, Fay and the money begins... Written by
Markus Lasermann <email@example.com>
While this movie is far from perfect, it deserves any true noir fan's time and attention.
Film noir is one of the oldest and most worked of all the Hollywood genres. Starting as early as 1941 with John Huston's The Maltese Falcon. Other greats include Orson Welles's Touch of Evil and Hitchcock's Notorious. With such a great variety of so-called "classic" noires to see, why would one want to take the time and money to watch an independent film noir by a then unknown director/writer. Simple: the director/writer is John Dahl, and this is no ordinary film noir. In fact, his movies (this was the first of them all) are so well received that critics credit him with starting a new genre called neo-noir.
It starts out like any other noir. Fay Forrester (Joanne Whalley-Kilmer), the femme fatal, and her boyfriend (Michael Madsen) are some small time criminals who rob the mod. They steal a briefcase full of money and kill one of the mod members. Then, Fay, who longs to escape country life and move to Las Vegas hits her husband on the head with a rock, takes all the money for herself, and runs to Vegas. Once she gets to Vegas, she hires Jack Andrews (Val Kilmer) to make it look like she was murdered, offering him, "$5000 up front and $5000 when I'm dead." Jack, reluctantly takes the job. However, once the job is done, Fay skips out of town without paying Jack the final $5000, and to make matters worse, Fay's boyfriend is in town at Jack's office looking for Fay. Now this is where it gets really interesting because everyone is looking to kill everyone else for revenge. It is just a question of who will succeed. The last half of the movie is filled with plot twists and unexpected actions. This, and especially the end, is where this film deviates from what is usually called film noir. This is not to say that the twists are unmotivated or out of character. They very much are. It is just the types of twists and the number of them are uncommon for films preceding this time. The ending is unexpected and pleasurable. But I won't ruin it for you here.
One thing that is particularly true for this movie is the consistency found in each of the main characters. There is no scene that feels out of place within the context of the picture. Also, I have to give a thumbs up to the under-appreciated performance by Michael Madsen. He does one heck of a job as the psycho boyfriend. Another thing that must be mentioned is the great choices for the camera angles by John Dahl. This makes the movie better than it is or should be. He places the camera in places so that you feel either closer or farther from the action, depending upon what sense he is trying to convey to the viewer. He really makes the tension tenser, and the action faster. The audience always gets enough, but never too much. This is just an outstanding example of film directing. The only other directors that have this uncanny ability are Welles, Hitchcock, Kubrick, Tarantino, and Scorsese. In my opinion, this film (which is from 1989) is a major influence on Tarantino and his works. You can clearly see the similarities between their choice of camera angles and what the audience gets to see; however, Tarantino is more graphic face.
While this movie is far from perfect, it is quite good and deserves any true noir fan's time and attention. If you like noires, and in particular, this film, then go check out Dahl's other two good neo-noires: Redrock West and The Last Seduction. I give this film an 8/10.
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