Old 05-06-2009, 04:56 PM
James Foley's After Dark, My Sweet

After Dark, My Sweet (1990)

James Foley's "After Dark, My Sweet" is a film masquerading as a film noir. It tries to have the dark tone and mysterious characters, but is never able to pull them off convincingly. Usually in a film noir, even though the characters are very mysterious, we eventually come to know them in some way, allowing for a connection, but the characters in this film are so two-dimensional, it becomes impossible. However, that is only one of its many problems.

Kevin Collins (Jason Patric), a retired boxer, has recently escaped from a mental institution. He wonders around and eventually meets Fay Anderson (Rachel Ward), who takes him into her house. Not long after, he finds himself involved with Fay and her friend, Uncle Bud (Bruce Dern), in a plot to kidnap the son of a rich family.

The film begins with a painfully-slow exposition in which nothing really important to the story happens. Normally, this is where we would learn a little about the characters, but as it is trying to be noirish, naturally we don't learn very much. After about 30 minutes, the first inklings of an actual plot begin to develop, fooling us into thinking something important may start to happen, but it takes about another half hour before the plot actually gets underway. I suppose the filmmakers thought that the intrigue among the characters themselves would be enough to sustain us until the movie actually started rolling, but the characters are so uninteresting in the first place that it becomes very hard to care about them.

Jason Patric plays Collins on one continuous flat note that always had a hint of paranoia. This paranoia continues until the end where he doesn't trust anyone at all. In fact, just about everyone on the cast chooses to play their characters on one flat note. None of them are the least bit believable. Add to this the fact that Jason Patric and Rachel Ward have no chemistry together and you're left with very unimpressive characters.

Then there were certain characters who were thrown in just for the plot's sake. After Collins leaves Fay early on, he runs into Doc Goldman (George Dickerson). His character is only here to complicate matters by having him tell Fay about Collins's situation. Later on, the doc's office serves as a place where Collins can grab some insulin for the kidnapped kid, who turns out to be diabetic.

The screenplay itself gives the characters nothing interesting to say. In another attempt to claim itself as film noir, it comes complete with voiceover narration. Normally, this would add some important aspect to the film by filling us in on plot details or the characters important thoughts, but not here. Here, it's only ramblings from the main character which serve no purpose.

The only slightly intriguing parts of this film had to do with the actual kidnapping and the ending. In order to avert betrayal, Collins first brings out the wrong kid because he figures that Uncle Bud is planning to kill him, making it look like Uncle Bud is a hero for saving the kid. Then Collins goes back and pulls of the kidnapping perfectly. The ending brings one fact to light which explains some of the flatness of Patric's performance, but even then, he could have added some range to it besides looking gloomy and acting paranoid. The ending additionally adds some feeling into the film, shown through Fay's actions. For a film that had basically no character development, it was nice to see that she had a little depth to her.

In the end, fans of film noir should not be fooled by this film. It tries so hard to be a film noir but never gets itself off the ground. The screenplay needed a lot of work as did the characters. There needed to be a lot more depth in both to allow the audience to actually care about what was going on. The premise had potential, but the filmmakers chose not to fully explore it. Instead of making the focus the kidnapping like it should have been, they chose to focus way too much of the second half on a relationship between two people that even we could figure out were not right for each other.

It was interesting how one particular monologue in the voiceover narration served to describe the speakers really well in this film. Collins says it when thinking of Uncle Bud, but it really could describe the audience's reaction to all three of the main characters: "The words poured out of his mouth, and they didn't mean a thing to me. They were just a lot of noises coming from a sickish-looking face. What other people said had never meant a thing to him, and now it was his turn. Now he was meaningless and what he said was meaningless." Spot on. 2/4 stars.
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Old 05-06-2009, 06:56 PM
I may disagree with your overall assessment, but you review some of the best films on the forums.

I could never say 'You're wrong' about a certain film.

You're just not right about this one.

Keep up the good work, guy.

(My rating - 8/10),

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