Picks and Pans Review: Into the Night
Here's the setup: Jeff Goldblum plays an aerospace engineer who suffers from insomnia and a cheating wife. One sleepless night, he gets out of bed and drives aimlessly around Los Angeles—all to the evocative sound-track accompaniment of blues pioneer B.B. King's guitar and vocals. Parked at the L.A. airport, he ponders escape to a more exciting world. But this woebegone Walter Mitty can't even dream up another world. So director John (Trading Places) Landis and screenwriter Ron (Firstborn) Koslow do it for him. Presto, a gorgeous blonde, Michelle (Scarface) Pfeiffer, chased by a band of thugs, jumps into his car, and the two drive off into an L.A. night world of dames, decadence and danger. Some setup. The plot, involving Pfeiffer's knowledge of stolen emeralds, is, to say the least, contrived. But as a wish-fulfillment fantasy for the tired businessman, Into the Night is a pip. Pfeiffer is a knockout of the first order with a newly uncovered flair for comedy. She even manages to hold her own with the scenery, which is no mean feat. Landis and his skilled cameraman, Robert Paynter (they collaborated on Michael Jackson's Thriller video), give the L.A. midnight hour an irresistibly tacky sheen—especially when playing peekaboo around Rodeo Drive and Frederick's of Hollywood. The film's best bits, such as those involving Bruce (Silkwood) McGill as an Elvis impersonator, Irene Papas as a dragon lady of real estate, David Bowie as a British hit man and country music's Carl Perkins as a playboy's bodyguard, combine the snap of slapstick with the menace of Maltese Falcon melodrama. But Landis' penchant for graphic violence often curdles the comedy. On the surface, Into the Night is flashy, forgettable fun. Something else may be bubbling beneath that surface, however, Landis is currently facing trial on charges of involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of three actors during the filming of his Twilight Zone—The Movie in 1982. Whatever the court decides, it is clear from Into the Night that many of Landis' colleagues wanted to offer him moral support. A number of directors, including Landis (as a member of the Iranian secret police), make cameo appearances in the film. Among them are Paul (Moscow on the Hudson) Mazursky, Roger (Barbarella) Vadim, Lawrence (The Big Chill) Kasdan, Jonathan (Swing Shift) Demme, David (Scanners) Cronenberg and Muppet master Jim Henson Their presence means little to the plot or to the uninitiated members of the audience. But that demonstration of directorial camaraderie adds to this high-gloss piece of Hollywood professionalism something resembling a heart. (R)
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