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Too Hot to Handle
on November 7, 2006
Expert opinion says that since the advent of color film, a good contemporary noir film is an L.A. noir film; that seems to be largely so, except then you've got "Body Heat," set in Florida. Be that as it may, "Against All Odds" is an LA noir film: it profits from the unique atmosphere of Los Angeles, the sinister corruption behind the sunny smile; the reality of arid desert behind the wastefully-watered green lawn. And most particularly, the parched, penned-up ill-respected Los Angeles River that features in Roman Polansky's mythic "Chinatown, and "in "The Narrows," one of Michael Connelly's recent books. The river also, of course, features in that well-known teenage film noir,"Grease," in which John Travolta and his all-singing, all-dancing fool friends stage their drag race in the river's concreted bed, graced by only the merest trickle of water. The Los Angeles River: Ignored until it rampages.
"Against All Odds" is a loose 1980's remake of Robert Mitchum's film noir, "Out of the Past." Jane Greer. femme fatale of the earlier film, plays mother to Rachel Ward, this film's femme fatale. Richard Widmark, important player in many earlier films noir, is on hand here too, in a small but critically important part. The plot is set in motion when Jake Wise,(James Woods), well-connected nightclub owner and man of many parts, sets his old friend, used-up former pro football player Terry Brogan (Jeff Bridges), to find and return his runaway girlfriend Jessie Wyler (Rachel Ward), hiding somewhere in Mexico.
For starters, Mexico, Bridges and Ward have never looked hotter, the Ward-Bridges sex scenes are too darn hot, and the seemingly mandatory confusing LA real estate corruption subplot doesn't stop the main story line cold too often. The film was ably directed by Taylor Hackford, and the three principals carry their roles. There's also a flavorful supporting cast: Swoosie Kurtz, Saul Rubinek, Alex Karras, Dorian Harewood. "Against All Odds" is a bit dated, stuck in the '80's, and it's not the greatest noir story ever told, but it offers a lot of visual heat. It also delivers on the emotional heat meter, at least to me: true to noir conventions, nobody gets what they want, surely not Terry Brogan, who realizes, belatedly, that Jessie Wyler is literally too hot for him to handle,and he's going to have to leave her to her rich, powerful mother. Yes, it's been done before, possibly better, but "Against All Odds" stands and delivers on its own, and is worth a look-see.