Film Review – NARROW MARGIN (1990)

NARROW MARGIN (1990, USA, 97m, 15) ***
Action, Crime, Thriller
dist. TriStar Pictures (USA), Guild Film Distribution (UK); pr co. Carolco Pictures; d. Peter Hyams; w. Peter Hyams (based on the screenplay by Earl Felton and the story by Martin Goldsmith & Jack Leonard); pr. Jonathan A. Zimbert; ph. Peter Hyams (Technicolor | 2.39:1, 2.20:1 (70mm prints)); m. Bruce Broughton; ed. James Mitchell; pd. Joel Schiller; ad. David Willson.
cast: Gene Hackman (Robert Caulfield), Anne Archer (Hunnicut), James Sikking (Nelson), Harris Yulin (Leo Watts), J.T. Walsh (Michael Tarlow), M. Emmet Walsh (Sgt. Dominick Benti), Susan Hogan (Kathryn Weller), Nigel Bennett (Jack Wootton), J.A. Preston (Martin Larner), B.A. ‘Smitty’ Smith (Keller), Codie Lucas Wilbee (Nicholas), Barbara Russell (Nicholas’ Mother), Antony Holland (Elderly Man), Doreen Ramos (Elderly Woman), Kevin McNulty (James Dahlbeck), Andrew Rhodes (Nigro), Lon Katzman (Loughlin), Dana Still (Bellman With Message), Lesley Ewen (Larner’s Secretary), Barney O’Sullivan (Ticket Agent).
This remake of Richard Fleischer’s well-regarded 1952 film noir sees Archer witness a brutal murder by mobsters. She hides out in a remote cabin in the Canadian tundra. Hackman is the Deputy DA who journeys into the wilderness to convince Archer to testify in court. When mob assassins shoot at the cabin in a helicopter, Hackman and Archer make a mad dash through the wilderness to escape the mob only to be trapped on a train with the villains on their tail. It lacks the dark intensity of the original but benefits from Hackman’s witty performance. The script is generally weak and lacks plausibility, but there are occasional flourishes of humour – notably in the exchanges between Hackman and Sikking. Great stunt work is in evidence too as the story is punctuated with violent action sequences. Archer, however, is given little to do other than look scared and Hyams seems undecided on tone throughout. The Canadian scenery is breathtaking and wonderfully captured by Hyams. Broughton provides a suitably brooding score. The result is a flawed but often highly entertaining thriller worth it for Hackman alone.

Film Review – NIGHT MOVES (1975)

Related imageNIGHT MOVES (USA, 1975) ****
PRODUCTION: Distributor: Warner Bros. (USA), Columbia-EMI-Warner (UK); Production Company: Warner Bros. / Hiller Productions / Layton Productions / Major Studio Partners; Release Date: 18 March 1975 (USA); Filming Dates: fall/winter 1973; Running Time: 100m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: 18 – child abuse theme.
CREW: Director: Arthur Penn; Writer: Alan Sharp; Producer: Robert M. Sherman; Associate Producer: Gene Lasko; Director of Photography: Bruce Surtees; Music Composer: Michael Small; Film Editor: Dede Allen; Casting Director: Nessa Hyams; Production Designer: George Jenkins; Set Decorator: Ned Parsons; Costumes: Rita Riggs; Make-up: Bob Stein; Sound: Richard P. Cirincione, Craig McKay, Robert M. Reitano; Special Effects: Joe Day, Marcel Vercoutere.
CAST: Gene Hackman (Harry Moseby), Jennifer Warren (Paula), Susan Clark (Ellen), Edward Binns (Ziegler), Harris Yulin (Marty Heller), Kenneth Mars (Nick), Janet Ward (Arlene Iverson), James Woods (Quentin), Anthony Costello (Marv Ellman), John Crawford (Tom Iverson), Melanie Griffith (Delly Grastner), Ben Archibek (Charles), Dennis Dugan (Boy), C.J. Hincks (Girl), Max Gail (Stud), Susan Barrister (Ticket Clerk), Larry Mitchell (Ticket Clerk).
SYNOPSIS: In LA, a private detective is hired by a retired obscure Hollywood actress to find her 16 year-old missing daughter.
COMMENT: Extremely well-acted detective mystery with Hackman delivering a performance of depth as the private eye with things to prove to himself. The complex script focuses as much on character as plot progression and gives the actors plenty to work with and Warren and Clark are notable standouts. The finale contains a neat final twist. The only misstep is Small’s weak score, which fails to build on the tension evident in Sharp’s script and drawn out through Penn’s expert direction and Surtees’ moody photography.