Thursday, November 20, 2008

AFTER DARK, MY SWEET (1990)

“There's something inside of every man that keeps him going long after he has any reason to. For years I kept going when going didn’t seem to make any sense. And now I just had to keep going. I had to have the end come.”

THE CARD:

Nutballs humping, a chronic case of bed head, a foul mouthed kid, a lollipop-starved kid, the soulless desolation of the American Southwest, a thirsty desert flower, no one's favorite Uncle, a godforsaken stroll through the nihilistic world of author Jim Thompson, and that Hunk ain’t right.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

A down-on-his-luck ex-boxer, Kevin “Kid” Collins (Jason Patric) drifts into a desert town after aimlessly wandering a barren highway muttering observations into the dusty air. He looks like a transient, clutching a ratty paper bag and behaving strangely detached and claiming he’s waiting for a friend. After scrapping with a bartender in a punch-up, he meets the mysterious Fay (Rachel Ward), who takes him home and appropriately offers him odd-jobs. But there are secret motives to her altruism, and Collie, as Fay nicknames him, quickly becomes aware that he's being set-up for something bad. His suspicions are confirmed when he meets Uncle Bud (Bruce Dern), a seedy figure in Fay's life who's got a caper perfect for the likes of a seemingly gullible Collie to partake. Collie soon develops feelings for the lost and alcoholic Fay, but his instincts drive him away and he's back on the road. After rambling incoherently in a truckstop, he's befriended by Dr. Goldman (George Dickerson) who recognizes that Collie's problems run deeper than mere quirks. Doc promises help and confidentiality and gives him a home and a job. But as him name implies, Collie is treated like a stray dog by everyone which does nothing but return his thoughts to Fay. He leaves the doctor and reenters her life despite his terrible secret left wide open. Back at Fay's, Uncle Bud is plotting the kidnapping of a prominent family's sickly son, and Collie's been chosen as the grab man. As his affection for Fay intensifies, he is torn by mistrust and self doubt and feels obligated to protect her from Uncle Bud's corrupted influence. But something darker twists his insides, a terrible secret that threatens to break him, Fay, and his newfound purpose in life apart. He goes through with the kidnapping, but things go awry when the boy gets deathly ill, Goldman shows up, and Uncle Bud's got something treacherous up his sleeve. And as Collie becomes more unstable and the caper falls apart, the endgame may spell nothing but a sun dried doom.

THE FINISHER:

After Dark, My Sweet is one of the preeminent neo-noir pictures, films adopting the style and substance of film noir albeit in a contemporary setting with modern themes. Other examples include Carl Franklin's One False Move, Christopher Nolan's Memento, and Rian Johnson's Brick. This movie is a fascinating study of failure, loneliness, and mental instability, classic staples of the genre. The story is not fueled by the action of the kidnapping plot, but rather by the interaction of the three loser characters and their existential plight in the middle of nowhere. The three leads Patric, Ward, and Dern all turn in amazing performances that exemplify the themes of hopelessness and defeat. Patric is impressive as the complex loner with a dark past and a destructive weakness that keeps him out of the fray of normal relations. Ward is similarly great as an outcast figure, living a frittered life in a wasteland, drinking away her loneliness every night of the week. Dern is spectacularly slimey as Uncle Bud, a distasteful human being who's not above twisting a knife in your back in broad daylight. Despite being set in sunny Palm Springs, the film's themes are about as dark as any noir, and this is emblematic of the personal hells in which author Jim Thompson, whose novel the film is based on, excels. Thompson’s worlds are inhabited by psychotic loners, scarred women, and frantic con men where life is negotiated by trigger fingers and desperate acts, and After Dark, My Sweet is a gripping ride into hopelessness where somehow a hero, however flawed, can emerge.

1 comment:

Nick Noir said...

With the exception of Brick, I'm not sure what you mean by modern themes with After Dark, One False Move and Memento. Could you please expand upon this?