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Intense actors like Bruce Dern, Jason Patrick and Rachel Ward combine
to make this modern-day film noir a winner. Of the three, I don't know
who was most interesting as all offer good performances and intriguing
Patric does the narration in this noir, playing an ex-boxer and mental patient. Wow, that alone makes for an interesting guy! He looks dumb, but he isn't. Ward is the slinky, attractive, cynical, intelligent and compassionate co- conspirator of a kidnapping plan that goes bad. Bruce Dern also is in the mix and Dern never fails to fascinate in about any film.
The movie could be considered kind of downer to the average viewer, but I found it fascinating....and I don't like depressing movies normally. What I found was a kind of quirky crime film. Take a look and see if you agree. This is pretty unknown film that shouldn't have that status because it's simply a good story and well-done.
It was easy not to notice this in theaters a decade ago, but time has been
exceedingly kind to AFTER DARK & likely will continue to be. Already it
stands as one of the 90s best films.
Though its Southwestern locations (Indio, California was used) are both a
bit too sparse and modern to suit the source material, in every other way
this captures the ineffable aura of Jim Thompson's prose (and anyone who's
actually READ "The Getaway" knows how utterly impossible a task translating
his best effects to film really is). Director Foley has done a splendid job
in setting a tone of dreamlike, sunburned melancholy and maintaining it
throughout, aided immeasurably by fine performances by Rachel Ward & Bruce
Dern and an absolutely riveting one by Jason Patric. I had faint hopes for
this film before seeing it, due mostly to Patric in the lead; I was floored
watching it, and all DUE to Patric's performance. Though a little young for
the part, he captures perfectly the likable ambivalence and roiling inner
pathology of the Jim Thompson Hero: you never stop feeling for the guy even
as you know he will inevitably be compelled by his inner torments to do
monstrous things before the story ends. Patric's complete immersion into
"Kid Collins" steals a little thunder from one of Bruce Dern's most
chillingly indelible portrayals of slime personified, "Uncle Bud". (Fans of
Dennis Hopper's "Frank Booth" from BLUE VELVET would take to Uncle Bud
immediately, I think.)
More than any other film adaptation of Thompson, AFTER DARK -even more than
THE GRIFTERS - embodies that peculiar cowtown existentialism of his that
tells us we're each of us alone in a world where things start bad and only
get worse, pretending we're sane the way kids pretend there's a Santa Claus.
A film without an audience in 1990, but little by little, year by year, a
growing and appreciative audience is building. See this movie.
Ex-boxer turned drifter, Kid Collins (Patric), wafts his way into the
life of a con-man and a drunk. Wanting to stay below the radar, Collins
takes refuge with a woman that trades shelter for work. The death of
her husband has plummeted her into a world of alcohol and rage. As
Collins begins to build a relationship with her, she shares with him
details of a kidnapping plan that her and her 'Uncle' have been working
on. Thinking that Collins is nothing more than a mental lackey, they
persuade him to help with the diabolical plan. Little do they know that
the monsters struggling inside Collins' mind are about to be unleashed
onto the world. As the plan begins to disintegrate before their eyes,
loyalties are lost, and nobody can be trusted.
What an amazing find! When I began watching this film I was not expecting to be so surprised. Jason Patric is spectacular in this film and demonstrates powerfully his ability to control and maintain a troubled character. I never once felt that he had stepped out of character during this performance. This is due in part to the exceptional direction by James Foley that creates a story so imaginative and real that you begin to feel as if this could be a town next to yours. Foley gives us flawed characters that take away that image of perfection and helps build deeper emotional ties. Foley also never gives anything away. Throughout this entire film, I never knew what was going to happen next. This is surprising for a Hollywood notorious for 'jumping the gun'.
Patric's performance with Foley's direction coupled with a completely terrifying secondary characters (like Bruce Dern and Rachel Ward), After Dark My Sweet is a true diamond in the rough.
Grade: ***** out of *****
It is rare that one comes across a movie as flawless as this. It's truly one of the best acted, most tightly structured films I've ever seen. Every line of dialogue can be interpreted in several ways, relating to each of the three main characters differently. The film weaves an intrinsic web of motivations and double crosses that snare you and refuse to let go. Add to this that the slow-burning romance between Kevin and Faye is as moving as anything that's ever been committed to celluloid and you have the ingredients for a perfect film. It exposes the romance of movies such as "Titanic" as the trite cliches they are. If you're looking for a movie to watch while you fold laundry, this isn't it. You have to commit yourself to this film. You can't have a conversation while running in and out of the room. This movie demands your attention. Treat it with the respect you deserve and you'll get a lot out of it. Unless you think "Titanic" is the greatest film ever.
The first of two Jim Thompson adaptations released in 1990 (the other
being the more well-known GRIFTERS), AFTER DARK has all of Thompson's
hallmarks: dangerous women, the confidence game, and characters that
are either not as dim as others suspect them of being, or not as
Jason Patric is superb as a former boxer disqualified from the sport for life due to an incident in the ring (director James Foley uses RAGING BULL-esquire sequences to flesh out the back story) and the too-little-seen Rachel Ward also delivers a great performance. But Bruce Dern is the film's secret weapon: his sweet-talking grifter Uncle Bud subtly commands each of his scenes.
there's almost no comic relief in this film, so watch it prepared to be sucked into the void.
If you're as huge of a fan of an author as I am of Jim Thompson, it can be pretty dodgy when their works are converted to film. This is not the case with Scott Foley's rendition of AFTER DARK MY SWEET. A suspenseful, sexually charged noir classic that closely follows and does great justice to the original text. Jason Patrick and Rachel Ward give possibly the best performances of their careers. And the always phenomenal Bruce Dern might have even toped him self with this one. Like Thompson's book this movie creates a dark and surreal world where passion overcomes logic and the double cross is never far at hand. A must see for all fans of great noir film. ****!!!
While watching the exquisitely photographed film After Dark, My Sweet, one
has to admire Jason Patrick's heartbroken voiceover. His narration is a
combination of punch-drunkenness, paranoia, and a surrendering to fate. Like
in many noirs, Collie knows there is no way to escape one's destiny; the
only thing to do is ride it out and see what happens.
After Dark, My Sweet is one of those little gems, a film that came out just as independent cinema was experiencing an upswing in popularity. And, although the film was no huge hit when it was released, After Dark, My Sweet was at the beginning of a new trend: the neo-noir film. John Diehl would later impress us with Last Seduction and Red Rock West, but while those noirs had the style of the older genre, After Dark...has the dialogue and attitude of old; the words coming out of Patrick's mouth are clearly classic Jim Thompson. That sort of dementia, a kind of poetry, is hard to fake. James Foley has translated the novel to screen without losing the feel. When Collie is flashing-back to his boxing days, our heart races with him. When Collie recalls all of his past regrets and his own self-loathing, the sound of his voice and the words he is speaking are haunting and haunted. Jason Patric's performance is his best; he is pathetic yet endearing, stupid but savvy. A tough role to pull off, but he does it in true shaggy-dog ease. Rachel Ward and Bruce Dern(always the crazy one) play good backup, especially Ward with her 1940's-era fast-speak witty banter, straight out of Barbara Stanwick movies. But, this is Patrick's (and Thompson's) show.
Bravo to James Foley for this top-notch adaption of Jim Thompson's nightmarish reality, one that is desperate and life-threatening and sometimes all too real.
This is a moody, oblique, adult thriller that seems to bore most of the reviewers so far, making me think that they're all mostly adolescent-type viewers. While not a perfect film noir, AFTER DARK, MY SWEET is a particularly unusual one in that it uses bright atmospherics as opposed to the standard dark ones used to enhance the downward decadence of the material. This picture was made at a time when pulp novelist Thompson was getting a bit of a revival on screen, with a remake of THE GETAWAY and a nifty film version of THE GRIFTERS. The remarkable French film COUP DE TORCHON, also based on a Thompson novel (entitled POP. 1280) uses the same bright noir approach. AFTER DARK, MY SWEET stands admirably along side all these films as a relevant tribute to a writer who often exposed people's dark anxieties with tough, stylish precision! Check out the widescreen Artisan DVD for some nicely done and highly-recommended, adult moviemaking.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
After Dark, My Sweet is a great, modern noir, filled with seedy
characters, dirt roads, and, of course, sweaty characters. It seems
that most of the truly great noirs of the last two or three decades
have taken place in the South, where the men glisten and the ladies,
um, glisten too. Why? Because it's hooooottttttttttt. And because
everyone looks better wet (at least the men do - sweaty women leave me
Anyway - there might be some spoilers in here.
This film is a wonderful example of everything a noir should be - steady pacing (though some with attention disorders refer to it as 'slow'), clearly and broadly drawn (though not simple) characters, and tons of atmosphere. Noir, if anything, is about moods and attitudes. That's why the great ones are not marked by your traditional definitions of 'great' acting (look at Bogart, Mitchum, Hurt, and Nicholson - they (and their characters) were anything but real - but they had style and sass and in a crime movie that's exactly what you want). or quickly paced adventures (again all great noirs seem to be on slow burn like a cigarette). Great noirs create an environment and you just inhabit it with the characters for a couple hours.
After Dark My Sweet let's you do that - and it let's you enjoy the company of some very interesting and complex characters. Uncle Bud and Collie are intriguing - never allowing the audience to know what really makes them tick - and Patric and Dern (I love Bruce Dern, by the way) are pitch perfect, Dern especially (see previous comment). They take the basic outlines of a character and give them depth and elicit our sympathies.
The story itself is also interesting. There're better plots in the world of noir (hardly any mystery here - mostly it's suspense), but this one is solid. If anything, the simply 'okay' plot has more to do with Jim Thompson's writing than anything else. With Thompson, plots are almost secondary; he eschewed the labyrinthine tales of Hammett and Chandler for simpler stories with stronger, more confusing characters. Look at a novel like The Killer Inside Me and and you'll see right away (from the title) what it's all about. When it comes to Thompson, it's not what it's about, it's how it's about it (to quote Roger Ebert). So, really, the relatively simple plot of a kidnapping is not the point and, if you don't like it, well the jokes on you.
Why this is an 8star movie rather than a 10star one is because of the female lead. She's not bad, per se, but she's not Angelica Huston or Anette benning (see the adaptation of Jim Thompson's The Grifters if you don't know what I'm talking about - besides it's a better movie and you should start there for contemporary noir - it's the best of the 1990s and challenges Blood Simple for the title of best since Chinatown). She simply doesn't have the chops (or the looks for that matter) and though she and Patric have some chemistry, I don't have it with her. So there.
Ever read Jim Thompson? He's hard-boiled noir with the most extreme fatalism and misanthropy I've ever encountered. There are rarely private detectives in his work - just losers, psychotics and small-time con artists. This film has Thompson nailed - "If God made any real mistakes in this world, it was in giving us a will to live when we've got no excuse for it." Every character in the film balances on a razor's edge between surreal and creepy realism. There's sleazy, conniving Uncle Bud, played by Bruce Dern and spookily well-intentioned Doc Goldman played by George Dickerson. Jason Patric gives a wonderful, often heart-wrenching performance as Kid Collins, a none-too-bright, shy ex-fighter who's more scared of himself than of anyone else. Rachel Ward is Fay, the sexy femme fatale who we can't quite figure out...It's not your standard film noir, nor is it intended to be. After Dark My Sweet, along with The Grifters, are two excellent adaptations of novels by one of my favorite writers, Jim Thompson.
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