"You Can Thank Me Later" is not for viewers who crave action, though there's a surprising amount of tastefully filmed sex. But thoughtful viewers with a taste for character-driven scripts will appreciate the light irony and the fine acting in this under-appreciated Canadian film.
If you care about children and families, watch "Broken Promises" for the bittersweet story. If you don't care about those elements, watch it for Ted Levine's performance. Either way, it's worth your time.
More to the point, the subplot surrounding the bigamist Frederick King/James McGraw (Ted Levine) is not merely "thrown in," as some critics have suggested. Mistaken identity is a classic comedic device going back at least 2000 years to the New Comedy of Menander in ancient Greece, and it still works. It also adds suspense; both Harry (Tom Berenger) and Stella (Elizabeth Perkins) believe McGraw/King to be Miss Dolan's "charming but dangerous" lover, Rick, and are consequently oblivious to whatever danger the real Rick may present.
The Levine subplot also provides opportunities for variations on the love theme so blatantly emphasized by Stella's omnipresent "Love Manual." Compared with most movies of the 1980s and 90s, this one has relatively little sex but lots of kissing. (Ted Levine gets to kiss two women, unusual for him, but this film predates "Silence of the Lambs," in which his powerful performance as Jame Gumb stereotyped him as a murderer.) There are some genuinely tender moments and a lot of surprises, some of them comic and most of them in some way related either to love or mistaken identity.
The casting is excellent. Both Berenger (despite his gravelly voice) and Perkins are likeable and believable, and Levine is marvelous as a man with two lives and two personalities. (No, he's not schizophrenic; he just likes to go out on a limb because, as he tells Stella, "that's where the fruit is").
To say more would be to spoil the film. Find it and watch it. It will be well worth the trouble of hunting it down.
Much the same can be said of the supporting characters, though the lives and personalities of McCauley's gang (especially Chris, played rather mechanically by Val Kilmer) are somewhat more fully developed than those of Hanna's crew. We're given just enough of a glimpse into the life and character of Bosko (Ted Levine) to wish to know more. (What IS he doing sitting in a bar with a tarty-looking girl on his lap, especially since Hanna is also there with his WIFE? Guess I need to watch it again to find the answer to that one.)
The cinematography is excellent, particularly the night scene where the helicopter flies by the gleaming glass towers of LA's sky scrapers. The bank robbery scene feels so real that your heart is pounding regardless of whom you're rooting for. And of course, Michael Mann deserves credit both for his directing and for his intelligent, mostly realistic, script.
There are a few flaws in the movie, but this movie is worth the nearly three hours of your time that it takes to fully develop the plot and the two main characters. The few predictable places are more than made up for by surprises throughout the movie--few or none of them implausible. There's also the satisfaction of seeing one really despicable character get what he deserves. More important, we see two seemingly hardboiled men, one on each side of the law, reveal their humanity.