Monday, 24 January 2011

Into The Night (1985)

Jeff Goldblum stars in his first leading-man role as Ed Okin, an everyman who's world is falling apart around him. His suburban life is meaningless, he hates his job and he's suffering from a bad case of insomnia. After discovering his wife in bed with a co-worker he takes off one night with the intention of escaping his dull existance.

Instead he ends up rescuing damsel in distress Michelle Pfeiffer from the clutches of some murderous Iranian hitmen who are after a bunch of smuggled emeralds. What follows is a road/chase movie around mid 1980s LA via highways, hotels and motels, Beverly Hills mansions, Malibu beach houses, Hollywood film sets and the glamorous Marina Del Ray.

Los Angeles has been portrayed 1000 times on the silver screen, and whilst Into the Night is no classic, it has cult status.
I guess the big problem with Into The Night is that it wants to be both an existential comedy/romance and a violent fast paced thriller. However the result is a film that's neither outrageously funny nor hugely exciting. An escapist's dream of a movie, it follows a pretty familiar narrative with it's fair share of cheesey dialogue and more than a few worn-out plot hooks.

Into the Night is, however, compulsive viewing for the late night movie fan. Jeff Goldblum's performance is one of superb understatement, his skin pale and his eyes heavy-lidded as insomnia grips him and there is real on screen chemistry between him and Michelle Pfeiffer. Added to that is a very inventive use of LA locations - the city looking bleached out and sundrenched in daylight whilst it shimmers in neon light by night.

The main talking point for film geeks is director John Landis's leftfield approach to bit-part casting. Following on from his big-time successes with Trading Places, An American Werewolf in London and The Blues Brothers (and Michael Jackson's Thriller video!), Landis decided to cast a whole host of his Hollywood film director friends in cameo roles. Blink and you'll miss... Don Siegel, Jonathan Demme, Lawrence Kasdan, Amy Heckerling, Paul Mazursky and David Cronenberg to name a few, alongside Landis himself as one of the four slightly comical Iranian killers.

The cast also includes such diverse character actors as Richard Farnsworth, Dan Ackroyd, Irene Papas and Vera Miles. Added into the mix are musical luminaries Carl "Blue Suede Shoes" Perkins and The Thin White Duke himself, David Bowie! In fact Bowie almost steals the show in his brief showing as English hitman Colin Morris, his knife fight with Carl Perkins one of the high points of the whole film.

Jeff Goldblum went onto great things from this. His very next film was The Fly which launched him into superstardom. Michelle Pfeiffer has also had a glittering career since Into The Night - critcal aclaim, nominations and awards followed her in many subsequent film roles. For Landis however, the film began a slow downward arc in his profession which resulted in such tripe as Spies Like Us, Beverly Hill's Cop III and Oscar (Sylvester Stallone's first and last foray into comedy). Sadly last year's attempted comeback Burke and Hare did little to change anyone's opinion that the funnybone is yet to be mended.

"You're very good..."