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After Dark, My Sweet

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US, 1990, 111 minutes, Colour.
Jason Patric, Rachel Ward, Bruce Dern.
Directed by James Foley.

After Dark, My Sweet is an effective moody thriller. It was adapted and co-written by director James Foley (Reckless, At Close Range, Madonna's videos). It is based on a novel by Jim Thompson. Screen versions of Thompson's novels, The Getaway and The Killer Inside Me, were made in the '70s. There was renewed interest in the late '80s with versions of The Kill- Off and The Grifters. Thompson creates his own marginal world, uses the techniques of the thriller, but writes moody psychological novels. The screenplay of this film follows the novel quite closely.

Jason Patric (The Lost Boys) is quite effective as the ex-fighter, wandering around California, getting caught up with losers, but somehow or other asserting himself and some personal moral stances. Rachel Ward is offbeat as the slatternly widow. Bruce Dern is very good as Uncle Bud, the ex-policeman with the scheme for kidnapping a young child. George Dickerson is the ambivalently motivated kindly doctor.

The film uses the voice-over for the hero's analysing his own situation, flashbacks of his bout where he killed his opponent - all intercut with psychological relationships and the plan for the kidnapping of the child. Relationships are significant, dependence and control, manipulation - and in relationship with the hero, the doctor and Uncle Bud being father figures, and the hero himself being father figure to the young child who is kidnapped. Some have complained of the slow pace - but for psychological thriller fans it will probably be very satisfying. (The musical score was written by veteran Maurice Jarre.)

1. Satisfying psychological thriller? The kidnap plan and its execution? The intercutting of the action with the study of relationships?

2. The popularity of Jim Thompson's novels, adaptations for the screen? Black, emotional, on the edge and the margin? The creation of a self-contained odd world? The significance of the title?

3. The landscape of the mountains, the town, homes, school, bars, factory, airport? The blend of the real and the unreal? The musical score?

4. The voice-over technique, Colli and his tone of voice, the monotone? Revealing himself, his attitudes? Sane or not? Shrewd? Amoral and moral? His judgments, being manipulated, his decisions, motivations? The importance of the insertion of the flashbacks, the fight, his own involvement, the crowd, his strong punches? Knocking his opponent down, punching him, his death? His strength?

5. Colli appearing from the mountains, the crossroads, the voice-over and his choices, the road and his story? Waiting for a friend? In the bar, talking, Bert ousting him? The encounter with Fay, her talking with him, his asserting that he wasn't stupid? The ride with her, his story, the name? The mutual attraction? Staying at the home, the possibility of work? The technique of voice-over and Colli explaining himself, the slow tracking shots and close-ups as audiences have time to consider him and understand what is going on?

6. The possibilities with Fay, the plan, her urging him to leave? Going to the bar, being asked to wait at the back, the encounter with the doctor, their talk, his response, the doctor and friendship, manipulation? Sanity, the institution? Colli deciding to go with him, gratitude to the doctor? Being set up in his home, at work, talking things over with the doctor - but his leaving and going back to Fay? His sense of responsibility towards Fay?

7. Uncle Bud, his incessant talking, the plan? Involving Fay and Colli? His motivation? The background of the police force, his boasting of his connections? Meeting Colli and Fay at the club, dancing, talking? The plan, the possibility of the false kidnap and the rescue? The photo of the child?

8. The kidnap plan, Uncle Bud, Fay, Colli and his uniform, taking the wrong boy, round the block, the interaction with the boy? Bud and Fay turning up, pointing out the correct boy, his picking him up, punching the chauffeur? The kidnap? The radio information about what had happened?

9. Taking the boy to Fay's, taking care of him? Reassuring him? Bud and his callous attitudes, the possibility of killing the boy? Fay and her ambivalence? The boy being ill, Colli taking care of him? The need for insulin? The plan for going to the doctors, stealing the insulin, the injection and helping the boy back to health? Fay and her impulsive reaction, allowing Colli to help the boy?

10. The relationship with Fay, the sexual encounter, the doctor coming and warning Fay, her running away? Her coming back? The night together and its sensuality? The effect on Colli, on Fay? Colli thinking that they were close? The disappearance of the boy, lost, found - and Fay's plan for taking the boy away? Bringing him back? Taking him to the factory? The doctor coming and intervening - and Colli punching him? The possibilities for the ransom?

11. The build-up to the airport contact, the policeman recognising Colli as the boxer and talking with him, letting him go out? The suddenness of the shooting? Colli and Fay in the desert, with the boy? His shrewdness in persuading Fay that he was going to kill the boy, and shoot him? Thus saving them both? His moral choice, dying happy?

12. Fay as the widow, her drinking, the scheme for the kidnap, picking up Colli, attracted to him, the influence of Bud, at the club and the dancing, the work at home, the doctor warning her off and her running away, the return? Colli and his uncertainty, her uncertainties? The night together, taking the boy away? The airport, saving the boy - and her shooting Colli?

13. Bud, the police, his story, the scheme, smart, talking things over at the club, talking incessantly to Colli (for half an hour)? The irony of the true story? His indebtedness to Bert, Colli rescuing him? Going to the airport, his death?

14. Bert, abrupt with Colli, with Fay? His hold over Bud? Standover tactics, the money, killing Bud at the airport, his own death?

15. The doctor, meeting Colli, talking with him, offering to help, manipulation, analysis of the situation? Taking him home, setting him up for the year? Letting him go? Telling Fay about his being in the institution? His coming about the insulin, Colli punching him, his dying? The ambiguity of his motivation? Homosexuality?

16. The little boy, the wrong boy being taken and his being smart? The correct boy, his fear, not relating to adults, being sick, saved by Colli, hugging Colli? Colli saving his life?

17. The theme of sanity and madness, Colli and his being punch-drunk, the killing? His going into institutions? His theory of putting on an act - going into the institution, getting lodging and food, putting on an act and then getting out? How true was this? From his voice-over comments, his analysis of characters? His behaviour with the boy?

18. Relationships, trust, mistrust? The important themes of father figures and son figures?

19. The world of Jim Thompson's psychological thrillers, American settings, personal dramas, police action?

Created by: coffey last modification: Tuesday 16 of March, 2010 [23:12:17 UTC] by malone

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