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A perfect example of a movie being so bad it's good
This is one of those movies that is very difficult to give a star rating because its high entertainment value is due to the fact that it's almost completely terrible.
A remake of the 1955 Humphry Bogart-Fredric March potboiler, DESPERATE HOURS is an unrelentingly bizarre piece of exploitation trash. There's virtually nothing "good" about it. The screenplay ranges from scattershot to just plain off-the-wall weird, the performances are some of the most over-the-top ever committed to film and the direction is borderline psychotic. Director Michael Cimino and producer Dino De Laurentiis once again prove that they are more capable than anyone else in the film industry of taking a potentially good idea and drowning it in excessiveness.
Mickey Rourke and Anthony Hopkins are both excellent actors. They are also actors who go from mannered to berserk very quickly. Both chew the scenery as if their lives depend on it. Mimi Rodgers is wooden even during emotionally intense scenes, Shawnee Smith is distraught before the home invaders show up and Lindsay Crouse is both wooden and over-the-top at the same time.
Kelly Lynch is the only actor who turns in even an appropriate performance, evoking a sense of hopelessness and panic from the start that makes you feel for her character, even if she has dug her own grave. This doesn't help a bewildering early scene in which her blouse spontaneously pops open to reveal her bare breasts make any more sense, however.
There are a lot of interesting plot and characterization ideas floating around the proceedings but none of them are ever fully developed. It reminds me of Cimino's HEAVEN'S GATE and De Laurentiis's DUNE, two similarly flawed but occasionally brilliant disasters which have grown better with age. Maybe with time, viewers will begin to see the tight, complex thriller struggling to break through the mess that is DESPERATE HOURS.
But all this analysis begs the question, would the movie have been more entertaining had it been put together more coherently? The answer is: probably not.
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