AGAINST ALL ODDS
US, 1984, 116 minutes, Colour.
Jeff Bridges, Rachel Ward, James Woods, Jane Greer, Richard Widmark, Dorian Harewood, Swoozie Kurtz, Saul Rubinek.
Directed by Taylor Hackford.
Against All Odds is a glamorous remake of the 1947 classic film noir Out of the Past. The film was directed by Taylor Hackford, director or The Idolmaker and the box office success An Officer and a Gentleman. The film is attractively photographed, has affluent and luxurious locations in California and Mexico and has a best-selling soundtrack including the hit title song by Phil Collins.
The film is not merely a remake. It is an also an updating and adaptation. Aspects of the plot are enlarged, especially making the heroine far less deadly than the original. Jane Greer, the femme fatale of the original, here plays the heroine's mother. Rachel Ward as the heroine is all glamour, less acting. The male leads are excellent: Jeff Bridges versus James Woods as Robert Mitchum was against Kirk Douglas. There is a good supporting cast led by Richard Widmark as the ultimate villain. The film has a slow pace, yet has atmosphere
and rather than being a film noir may be considered as an opulent '80s thriller.
1. The title references? Comparisons with the original film? Novel? (Out of the Past, Build My Gallows High)?
2. Production values: colour photography, Californian and Mexican locations? The editing, pace? The contrasts in atmosphere, big business, sport, gambling? The contrast with Mexico, the affair? The musical score of the '90s?
3. The mood of '80s thrillers remakes of past classics, adaptation to the '80s, popular styles, heroes and anti-heroes, big business corporations as villains? Politics and big business? Less grim in terms of black and white and characters and situations than the past? Nevertheless critical of society?
4. The structure of the film: the focus on Terry Brogan and his sports career, clashes with the coach and the team, his friendship with Jake Wise, the relationship between the two? The job? The search for Jessie? Falling in love? The flashbacks to the past? The confrontations with Sally, with Jake? Jessie's about face? Betrayal? The build-up to the crisis, murders, confrontations?
5. The parallel with past private eye thrillers? The sardonic style? Less emphasis on wit and humour than on glamour?
6. Themes of innocence and guilt, appearances and reality, cynicism, hopelessness, passion, betrayal, power, control, honour, murder, violence, greed?
7. The focus on the inscrutable heroine ? the beauty, the connection with Jake Wise, with her mother, with Terry? Death and her change? The whitewashing and the redeeming of the heroine at the end? (The contrast with the condemnations of the femme fatale of the '40s?)
8. The Californian background: sports teams, violent clashes, big money, bets, the fixing of matches, ownership of teams, the role of Ben Caxton, Mrs. Wyler? Jake Wise and his gambling? The interlinking? The atmosphere of romance, betrayal leading to mystery? Leading to idyllic affair? Solly and the reality of the search, life and death? The importance of the Californian background, the building projects, society, politics? The opening of the mountaintop estate? The frustrating of the plans?
9. The bond between Terry and Jake? The power of one over the other? Jake as powerful? His wealthy situation, lifestyle, relationships? The hint of madness? The relationship with Jessie? His wanting her back? Her having taken the money? Terry as the anti-hero, in debt to Jake, his visit to Mrs. Wyler? His setting off on his task? The waiting for Jessie, tracking her down, the first encounter, his falling in love, the beginning of the affair, the detail of the passionate affair? The arrival of Solly and the confrontation? His death and Jessie's running away? Terry and his having to cope with Jessie and her disappearance, with Jake and his pressure? The return? His turning private detective in trying to find out what happened? The relationship with Steve Kirsch, his business manager, the betrayal, Kirsch's death, the danger with the security guard, the relationship with Edie and her helping Terry to find the secret papers? The final confrontation with Caxton, with Jake? The violence and Jake's death? A way out for Caxton? Jessie's return to her mother? Terry's future?
10. Jake and his background, the detail of his gambling set up, his manic attitude, the relationship with Jessie, anger and violence, resentment of her taking his money? Setting Terry on her trail? The link with Solly, with Kirsch? With Caxton? The fickle friendship with Terry? The final violent confrontation? Jessie killing him?
11. Rachel Ward as Jessie, her beauty, her relationship with her mother, with Caxton? The credibility of her relationship
with Jake? Her stealing the money? The encounter with Terry, the passionate affair? Solly's arrival, his death, her running away, the return to Jake? Her return to her mother? The film's attitude towards her as heroine, femme fatale? Her being whitewashed at the end and a possible future with Terry?
12. Mrs Wyler and her place in society, the real estate, the ownership of the team? Her power? Reliance on Caxton? His suave manner, control? The opening ceremony and the clashes? The final confrontation and his being the mastermind of the conspiracy?
13. The gallery of minor characters: Solly and his work as coach, relationship with Terry, in league with Wise and Kirsch. coming for Terry, the confrontation in the cave, his death? Edie and her helping Terry? Kirsch and his work, betrayal? Tommy and his friendship? The members of the team?
14. The portrait of Californian society, Los Angeles affluence, real estate, politics, money?