An ex-boxer is drifting around after escaping from the mental hospital. He meets a widow who convinces him to help fix up the neglected estate her ex-husband left. Her Uncle talks them both...
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An ex-boxer is drifting around after escaping from the mental hospital. He meets a widow who convinces him to help fix up the neglected estate her ex-husband left. Her Uncle talks them both into helping kidnap a rich boy for ransom money, and the ex-fighter must make decisions about his loyalties and what is right.Written by
Ed Sutton <firstname.lastname@example.org>
According to Roger Ebert, After Dark, My Sweet "is the movie that eluded audiences; it grossed less than $3 million, has been almost forgotten, and remains one of the purest and most uncompromising of modern films noir. It captures above all the lonely, exhausted lives of its characters." See more »
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In this retelling, Jim Thompson's dark poetry doesn't survive time-travel forward
In James Foley's After Dark, My Sweet, drawn from Jim Thompson's moody suspense novel, Jason Patric gives a late riff on early Brando. He plays `Kid' Collins, a `retired' boxer who spent some spells in mental institutions after killing an opponent in the ring; now he's frozen into a perpetual fighter's crouch.
Now on the road, he drifts into a bar frequented by Rachel Ward and her unexplained Cornish accent (still a juicer, she's not quite the slatternly shrew of the book). She takes him home and stashes him in a trailer out back among the date palms. Next, up pops `Uncle' Bud (Bruce Dern), who suborns Patric into a half-baked scheme for kidnapping a rich kid. As happens with such schemes, things go awry (the kid turns out to be a diabetic, for one thing), and it falls to Patric to put matters right by a supreme act of self-sacrifice.
But the somnolent pace and elliptical plotting that worked in Thompson's telling sit uncomfortably on the screen. Even in the 1950s, the novel felt that it belonged to the conventions of a decade (or two) earlier it's a Depression-era, or immediate post-war kind of story. Fast-forwarding it to the 1990s proved more a shock than it could sustain, a disparity exaggerated by misguided fealty to the book.
While there's some fussy updating (the anonymous sticks of Thompson's vision become a faintly upscale desert enclave; an airport replaces the bus terminal), elements that need freshening stick out as anachronisms. For instance, the solicitous attraction felt by the 50-year-old bachelor doctor (George Dickerson) toward Patric can only be homoerotic. While Thompson, chafing under the constraints of his time, left that to be distantly inferred, there's no reason to be coy about it more than 30 years later (there's little coy about the lovemaking between Ward and Patric). To his credit, Dickerson gives the game away with his doomed looks of longing; was it Charles Laughton who remarked `They can't censor the gleam in my eye?' And the long fuse between Ward and Patric sputters on and on; the movie could only be improved by losing half an hour of downing drinks and exchanging alternating glances of hatred and lust.
The best thing about After Dark, My Sweet is Patric's performance, even if, in keeping with the fads of the 1950s, it gives off too many whiffs of `method.' At least he gives the role his best shot. The movie's flaws, however, can't be ascribed to Thompson. Latter-day filmings of his work, like The Grifters of the same year and (especially) The Kill-Off a year before, show there's plenty of punch left in the old pulpmeister.
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