Wednesday, December 10, 2008


1988, US, directed by Roger Donaldson

Not a film that I expected to see again in this lifetime, but it was hard to resist the lure of an outdoor screen in Fiji, whatever the film on offer; it was somehow appropriate that the screen was behind a bar. It's hard to assess what went so wrong with this film: Tom Cruise was at the top of the film world after Top Gun, while Roger Donaldson had just made the fine Washington thriller No Way Out - and a number of strong New Zealand films before that, including Sleeping Dogs, the country's first modern feature film - but their collaboration is an absolute mess.

Cruise is an actor who needs a strong director - Oliver Stone showed what the actor was capable of delivering the following year in Born on the Fourth of July - and while Donaldson had done good work with Kevin Costner and several Kiwi actors, you wonder if Cruise's box office success and the meddling of studio executives made it hard for the director to rule the roost; there are moments of truly sublime silliness, with Cruise pouting his way through key scenes. Perhaps, though, it was all about the paycheck: the script, after all, is dreadfully trite, and it's hard to imagine it was ever any great shakes. The various relationships never ring true - Cruise and his mentor Bryan Brown profess their undying friendship, and yet never seem to actually like each other all that much - while the resolution is so rushed you wonder if a chunk of the movie ended up on the cutting room floor. It's mostly interesting, at this remove, for the glimpse of late 1980s New York; the film breathes something of the striving air of Wall Street, particularly that movie's sense of compromised morality amid attempts to cash in.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States