Director: Wolfgang Petersen (Das Boot)
Writer: Wolfgang Petersen, based on the novel by Richard Neely
Stars: Tom Berenger (Shoot to Kill), Bob Hoskins (The Long Good Friday), Greta Scacchi (Presumed Innocent), Joanne Whalley-Kilmer (Kill Me Again)
The Story: After a brutal car accident, an amnesiac is nursed back to health by his sultry wife. When he comes to suspect that she isn’t telling him the whole truth, he hires an eccentric private detective to help him uncover the horrible truth.
How it Came to be Underrated: This movie catapulted Petersen onto the A-list, but Berenger, Scacchi and Hoskins would all soon see their careers screech to an early halt, making this very much a product of its time.
Why It’s (Sort of) Great:
- Well, okay, this movie isn’t great, but it’s a lot of fun. I’ve included it here to talk about the big irony of film noir scholarship: There’s no genre more critically-beloved than noir, but the modern inheritor of the same plots, the so-called “erotic thriller”, is considered the lowest of the low. Obviously, the big problem was sexual permissiveness— Why smolder when you can burn? These kinky neo-noirs enjoyed a brief surge of popularity in the early ‘90s, but theaters owners then decided that they only wanted PG-13 fare, and the genre went direct-to-dvd to die.
- But the fact is that I’ve seen lots of “I can’t remember if I killed somebody” movies, including many classic noirs, and I think this is the best, despite how cheesy it is.
- Whodunits are very hard to write. It's hard enough to concoct an original crime culminating in a big revelation, but that’s not the whole job—You need a story that also generates a series of false solutions that can propel you through the middle hour of the movie. Usually, the false solutions aren’t as intriguing as the real one, or vice versa. This movie turns you around enough times that the big reveal hits like a delerious sucker-punch.
- Whatever happened to Greta Scacchi? She’s white-hot here. Major crush in my teen years. She had cheekbones that could cut diamonds.
Underrated Compared To: Petersen followed this up with In the Line of Fire, which I like, but then he made three truly terrible movies that all somehow managed to make money: Outbreak, Air Force One, and The Perfect Storm.
If You Like This, You Should Also Check Out: Ironically, the movie that ended Petersen's “hot streak” was a movie I liked a lot more than anybody else did. Would you lose all respect for me if I told you I thought Troy was underrated? Hello? Hello? Where’d everybody go?
How Available Is It?: There’s a bare-bones dvd.
Today’s Post Was Brought To You By: Speaking of deranged guilty pleasures, this came out on dvd yesterday. I’m going to have to re-watch them so that I can finally get all the rampant ribaldry.