The last time I tried to watch Near Dark, I failed miserably. This time I suppose I made it through the running time–I think that still image at the end is supposed to be some profound statement–but not all of my brain cells made it with me. They abandoned ship as the film progressed.
The only conceivable reason I can come up with for Near Dark‘s popularity is its mid-1990s rarity. It was a reuniting of memorable Aliens cast members and it wasn’t readily available on video–there was an old HBO Home Video release and I’m not sure it got another release until DVD. There was a laserdisc too, I believe, and it went for a lot on eBay (even pan and scan).
Bigelow doesn’t direct it poorly. She’s definitely mediocre, but her direction is far more competent than her script. Apparently she and Eric Red were going for a modern Western. They fail miserably, sort of because Bigelow–as a director–lets that analog be so quiet. Tim Thomerson searching for his “abducted” son is a Western, but it’s not if the main character is the son (a trying really hard Adrian Pasdar).
Lance Henriksen, Jenny Wright and Thomerson are good. Bill Paxton’s bad, like he’s Hudson doing a hick vampire impression. Jenette Goldstein and Joshua John Miller are both atrocious.
Near Dark‘s one of Tangerine Dream’s better scores and it does have great special effects.
But those don’t save it from being incredibly stupid.
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow; written by Bigelow and Eric Red; director of photography, Adam Greenberg; edited by Howard E. Smith; music by Tangerine Dream; production designer, Stephen Altman; produced by Steven-Charles Jaffe; released by De Laurentiis Entertainment Group.
Starring Adrian Pasdar (Caleb Colton), Jenny Wright (Mae), Lance Henriksen (Jesse Hooker), Bill Paxton (Severen), Jenette Goldstein (Diamondback), Tim Thomerson (Loy Colton), Joshua John Miller (Homer) and Marcie Leeds (Sarah Colton).
I can’t forget so I need to open with it. In this ‘rah-rah, go USA’ twiddle, Sean Connery actually hijacks a eulogy at a Medal of Honor winner’s funeral to resolve his issues with his daughter. It’s a hilarious close to the movie, which has such bad jokes throughout, a laugh track wouldn’t be out of place.
The film’s actually incredibly important in terms of 1980s film history–it’s Paramount trying to repeat pass success without the people involved with those successes. The Presidio is basically a Simpson/Bruckheimer production (down to the terrible script from Larry Ferguson), just without their particular brand of cinematic styling–for all the lame chases and exploding cars, Peter Hyams is not a bad director… he has a good understanding of using a Panavision frame to tell narrative, apparently just not the sense to know how to fix a bad script. The film’s missing a hip score and Eddie Murphy. Mark Harmon’s in the Eddie Murphy role, though I’m not sure if Simpson and Bruckheimer would have gotten rid of Connery. (He’s actually not terrible in it, with his native… ability–or long experience–above the script).
Harmon’s pretty terrible, with his bouffant hair doing most of the “acting” for him. Casting Harmon as a tough cop was a ludicrous decision and he spends most of the film utterly lost, kind of like a deer in headlights. Meg Ryan, however, is pretty good.
Hyams takes advantage of San Francisco as a location (not just for the frequent chases) and it gives The Presidio a classier look than it deserves. But as a Paramount executive shepherd’s pie–I’m wondering if all the principles were fulfilling contracts since all three did Paramount work just prior–it’s a gem. It’s atrocious, with simpler politics than First Blood (how they didn’t get a Reagan cameo, I don’t know), but it’s always rare to see a film so empty of any artfulness.
And what was Jack Warden doing in it? From The Verdict to The Presidio… it’s inexplicable.
Directed and photographed by Peter Hyams; written by Larry Ferguson; edited by James Mitchell; music by Bruce Broughton; production designer, Albert Brenner; produced by D. Constantine Conte; released by Paramount Pictures.
Starring Sean Connery (Lt. Col. Alan Caldwell), Mark Harmon (Jay Austin), Meg Ryan (Donna Caldwell), Jack Warden (Sgt. Maj. Ross Maclure), Mark Blum (Arthur Peale), Dana Gladstone (Col. Paul Lawrence) and Jenette Goldstein (Patti Jean Lynch).