Sunday, November 29, 2009

"Color of Night" - Yeah Bruce Willis made a skinemax flick

This 1994 theater release was missed by many, panned by the rest. To my great fortune, cable showed me what I'd likely pass up. This is silly and insane and so much fun! The trailer is here, but no embed, so please enjoy this scene:

Cinema's best one-cam two-shot ever. But Bruce is a dull date.

Bruce Willis plays Bill Capa, a New York City shrink ("Hi, Bill!"). His last patient, severely messed-up, jumps out his office window mid-session. He'd just confronted her problems directly, if a little too strongly; as Bill stares down at her body, the blood pooling on the street around her becomes grey.

So in a poetically cruel turn, the psychologist now has a distinct mental problem - he no longer sees the color red. Under such obvious strain, what's a faithless therapist do? He can run off to LA.

Doc Capa bails, flies out to see his best friend, Bob Moore (Scott Bakula). This isn't running away, tho: Bob's also a shrink, and he knows Bill well enough to get through to him. Moore's also gotten quite successful, so hopefully his positivity will rub off, right?

Probably wrong. In an awkward (but ultimately entertaining) scene, Moore asks his emotionally traumatized friend, just in from the airport, to sit in on the Monday night therapy group. After the session, we learn that Bob's been receiving death threats, and he's certain someone in the group is responsible.

Thanks for putting me in a room with a killer, pal.

This pic features an incredibly-deep cast: Eriq La Salle ("ER"), Rueben Blades ("Disorganized Crime"), Lance Henriksen (Bishop from "Aliens"), Lesley Ann Warren (Miss Scarlet in "Clue"), and Brad Dourif (Wormtongue from "LotR"). Together, these comprise just two cops and three of the therapy patients. "Color of Night" is just one Bill Paxton away from being James Cameron's smut feature.

The best, of course, is Jane March. She's the insanely pretty Eurasian from 1992's "The Lover." She's important here, if in ways both deep and shallow.

You see, Jane got the rare female role that delves into the character's emotions a bit. Despite this, naked a lot, and she's still the "sweet young thang," that challenges Dr. Capa and makes him rediscover what he wants.

Well, let me tell ya, readers, what Bill wants most is her. And he has her, repeatedly. In DVD format, this pic contains 4+ sex scenes; they get as much thought as any other part of "CoN." Jane acts up a storm while remaining magnificently nude throughout the running time. Hell, Bruce shows his... his willis! [it's only fair]

This movie is one of those freak "quality" productions that is pure cinemax late-night fodder. Imagine a more entertaining "Basic Instinct" to get the idea. And I admit, with no shame - one of my favorite moments involves Bruce's making a "climactic sound." I asked some friends to sit through that sex scene and was rewarded when their slight discomfort turned into uncontrollable laughter... Do you think Demi was pissed?

Yet Bruce's thriller/mystery shouldn't be defined by sexual acrobatics, or the hysterical ending that takes place on (apparently) the highest structure around the City of Angels. It's also a cutting look at Los Angeles life and therapy culture.

An Indian/Pakistani cabbie cranes his neck at a car accident, shouting "Is anybody hurt? Is anybody dead?" Under police questioning, Bill incredulously asks, "Do I need a lawyer?" The callous LA cop smoothly replies "You're in LA - everyone needs a lawyer." When Brad Dourif's OCD-laden character is told about a vicious death by knife, his first question is "How many times was he stabbed?"

I'm thinking one shrink isn't enough.

The bounty of solid character actors here is a blessing, elevating a totally unmysterious mystery, a "my god they must be so sore" romance, and an oddly-executed thriller. In fact, the admirable cast is the biggest, clearest reason why you should actually keep watching "Color of Night" all the way through. You might notice other strong points, too, like Richard Rush's sweet direction (he did make "The Stunt Man," y'know).

However, I promise you: there are also lots of reasons to reach for the remote. Some parts of the movie are poorly-executed. Others don't work, or are just silly (a cow. No, really. I found the cow funny, but it was a dumb choice.). Let's just say that this "guilty pleasure," is a bit guiltier than the rest.

The dialogue can play just fine, a blessing of that capable cast; but not always. Bill is driving and talking on the phone. He's supposed to be talking to his lawyer - his lawyer who's resolving that whole "dead patient" thing:
"No, you don't understand... Just give the family what they want... No you don't understand..."

Really? What if they want their relative's shrink to go to jail? What if they want $700 Million? I'm sure Bruce ad-libbed this whole thing. I don't have to rag on those lines for sounding dumb, as the delivery itself wasn't particularly convincing, either. Bruce didn't flub very often back then, y'know?

Other points are similarly unrealistic on an amazing level. Yes, it's a movie; yes, you have to alter your standards whenever you watch something like this. Moore never got Buck to open up? The laughable, laughable graffiti. How does Bill end up driving a car that isn't his and staying at a house that isn't his? Actually, that last thought takes a disturbing turn when you consider who our lead starts dating.

And I have to say that some of close-ups of Bruce, especially while he's driving, have a high chance of being (intentionally?) funny. I wouldn't pretend that there aren't reasons to sneer at this pic.

Reasons like my mother solved a huge plot point after walking in on one random minute. Also, a big chase scene involves Capa nearly running over an old lady, then almost committing suicide via train. Another finds Bob's Mercedes being outperformed by a Tracker. And our hero's monologues to himself are worth mocking.

It's not that any of this is poorly filmed. It's just that you're more likely to laugh than anything else.

For all that, this cinematic bomb has more spark than is shown in pretentious failures such as "Enemy at the Gates" or "Indy IV : The Suckening." Like so many great lesser-films, this pic knows what it is and knows its place. The lack of quality doesn't show in the camera-work or the acting or the dialogue - it's seen in a ludicrous, insane story containing more sex than most flicks have any right to.

Update: German trailer. Bruce was born there, so it fits.

However, it's always going to be a suspense movie that isn't very tense. And it is semi-silly. Yet if you do consider "CoN" horribly bad, at least you might find it so bad that it becomes amazing. For my money, the tension between all the things that work and don't work here are the things that actually make this experience play out just fine...

Enjoy this film for all the little beats that Lance Henriksen pulls off so niftily. Enjoy this as a hilarious comparison to Bruce's big shrink role in "The Sixth Sense." Enjoy this for the therapy sessions, the dialogue, or the "on-again, off-again" cinematography. And enjoy this for Jane March, who acted her little heart out when she must have been terribly, terribly cold.

March, and all the cast, deserves our respect. Their commitment makes this movie's caliber surpass the "Resident Evil" sequels, De Niro's and Pacino's career spirals, or the last several Jim Carrey flicks.

Even in little ways, they keep showing her naked.

If I had the ability to put the clips up, I could make a review and article that would leave you scrambling to watch this. And/or paralyzed with laughter. "Color of Night" is not a great picture; it is, however, at least 90% pure entertainment. That is a very high compliment, considering I can't praise its quality on an intellectual level.

Fun Bonus Facts: Casey is also played by a well-known character actor, Kevin J. O'Connor. Here, he looks like a relative of Steve Buscemi. The Latinos in this picture sing the correct birthday anthem for Spanish-speakers, "Estas son las maƱanitas..." Also, I know Lauren Christy's eponymous theme song so well that I must do it at karaoke one night. Sadly, I think only Korea-town's "Chorus" has it, and the microphone didn't work well for me last time...

No comments:

Post a Comment

Chime in!