More noise than signal

Desperate Hours

Republished from the show notes of my other site, Fuds on Film.

A remake of the 1955 Humphrey Bogart vehicle, which I confess I have not seen, was next for Cimino, and it must be said that it seems he’s finally taken on board Clint Eastwood’s advice after Heaven’s Gate, to go off and direct a small scale, more intimate movie. He’s tapped up Mickey Rourke to play sociopathic convict Michael Bosworth, who escapes from prison with the help of his defence lawyer Nancy Breyers (Kelly Lynch), who for reasons the film does not see fit to tell us is in love with him. He leaves her behind with orders to say he forced her at gunpoint to help him, with instructions to join him later on.

Bosworth is soon reunited with his brother Wally (Elias Koteas), and their dim-witted partner Albert (David Morse), and they look for a place to lay low, settling more or less at random on the home of Tim Cornell (Anthony Hopkins) and his family. Tim was previously busy trying to repair his relationship to estranged wife Nora (Mimi Rogers), but they find themselves hostage in their own homes, plotting a way to escape or overpower the three men invading their home.

Meanwhile, the Feds have not been convinced in the slightest by Nancy’s act, leading to them convincing her to betray Bosworth in return for a lighter sentence. They soon enough find out where he’s went to and arrive en masse for a spot of the old sieging, and, well, you can guess how that ends up.

There’s been a small degree of truncation in this plot recap, in the main to gloss over events a few events that don’t make a great deal of sense even in the full context of the film. Surprise surprise, Cimino had another battle over the cut of the film and lost, with him claiming that the producers butchered it. There’s perhaps some sympathy with this, as if nothing else it would explain the uneven, choppy pacing that doesn’t flow at all well.

This perhaps also marks the time that Michael Cimino was either suffered hearing loss, or perhaps had some sort of bizarre injury that destroyed his ability to select appropriate scores for films, as both his final film and in particular this film have ludicrous, intrusive, bombastic scores that overwhelm the performances and gives everything a horrible melodramatic tone that undercuts the rest of the film’s narrative.

Which, it must be said, was doing a good enough job of doing itself in, with no real drama or intrigue to speak of. The characters are uniformly flat and lifeless, and we’d learn nothing about any of these characters if they didn’t have someone outright read the dramatis personae for them. It’s particularly obnoxious in Bosworth’s case, who we’re informed has a genius level intellect. We have to be informed this, because there’s not a shred of evidence for that assertion in the rest of the script. It should be noted that this screenplay was written by Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal, who were both convicted of writing Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.

You’d think this cast, even if we’re only talking about Rourke and Hopkins would have enough charisma and talent between them to provide some interest, but Rouke’s off chewing the scenery and Hopkins seems bored of the work entirely. I can’t say I blame him. The two leads might as well be in different film for all the chemistry they have, and the supporting cast are playing below par also.

This sort of home invasion film has had something of a renaissance in recent years, but even if they’ve whetted your appetite this is by no means recommended viewing. I’ve not seen the original, but it surely can’t be any worse than this, so perhaps seek that out instead, or a similar level of enjoyment can be had from a hot knife and a spot of DIY gelding. Do not watch.