Skip to main content

This guy’s armed with a hairdryer.

An Innocent Man

(SPOILERS) Was it a chicken-and-egg thing with Tom Selleck and movies? Did he consistently end up in ropey pictures because other, bigger big-screen stars had first dibs on the good stuff? Or was it because he was a resolutely small-screen guy with limited range and zero good taste? Selleck had about half-a-dozen cinema outings during the 1980s, one of which, the very TV, very Touchstone Three Men and a Baby was a hit, but couldn’t be put wholly down to him. The final one was An Innocent Man, where he attempted to show some grit and mettle, as nice-guy Tom is framed and has to get tough to survive. Unfortunately, it’s another big-screen TV movie.

By which, I don’t mean an episode of Oz (now, that’s an idea: Tom Selleck in Oz). Peter Yates’ career was at best patchy, beginning on the high of Summer Holiday and proceeding to the zenith of Bullitt. His better movies tended to be the more dramatic (Breaking Away, The Dresser) than those requiring technical acumen or keenly martialled set pieces (The Deep, Krull, Year of the Comet).

An Innocent Man feels like the work of someone entirely disinterested in the material, delivering Larry Brothers’ screenplay in as perfunctory a manner as possible. I can’t say I entirely blame Yates, but underlining the general cheesiness is about the worst way to go. Howard Shore must cop some flak too; for all his genius elsewhere, this score is absolutely hideous, treacly movie-of-the-week pap that begins with Tom’s Jimmie Rainwood proving what an extraordinary aeronautical engineer he is over the opening credits and becomes steadily more indigestible as it continues.

After a couple of cops – a suitably hyperbolic, coked-up David Rasche (Sledge Hammer!) and his partner Richard Young (Fedora in the same year’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) – bust into the wrong house, shoot Jimmie and then cover their tracks by framing him as drug dealer, things are looking up when Jimmie escapes his “crusading cunt of a wife” (Laila Robins) and finds himself incarcerated. A chance for Tom to show his chops! And no way will he wince his way through the experience looking constipated the way Harrison Ford would. But therein lies part of the problem. Even when it comes to dealing with hisproblem” – being messed with by a trio of big black guys who are evidently NOT fans of Magnum P.I. and want to make him their bitch – Jimmie’s frustratingly unfazed and gets over shiving one of them with minimum self-reflection and guilt.

After that, his “Mr Rogers of the correctional system” has it easy, and the stubble, the droop tache, basketball and occasional sniffing – was Jimmie using as a part of a subplot that got excised? – and time in solitary show us just what a man he is. And then he’s out on bail, minimum fuss, for a showdown with the nasty cops. The bright spot of the prison sequence is a hard-guy inmate so decent, he’s practically Santa Claus; F Murray Abraham is always worth watching, but even he – “I’ve only been doing time since Jesus was a baby” – can’t make shinola out of this. Even the dramatics of Jimmie killing a guy are only passably compelling.

Jimmie taking down the cops, helped by Internal Affairs officer Badja Djola (the guy Bruce tells the “pimp-looking motherfucker” jokes in Last Boy Scout, before bottling him), is as pedestrian as it gets, and one further wonders the legal ramifications of such a scheme. Tom, being a brutalist now – “It scares me, but I can handle it” – is poised to slit Rasche’s throat when Laila screams “Jimmie!”, and he recovers his inherently noble decency. This is turgid stuff.

Also in the cast are early-stage-incarceration pal Todd Graff (The Abyss), who meets a particularly nasty, immolating fate, MC Gainey (Lost, Justified) and Tobin Bell (Saw). This was 1989’s second big prison movie, following the equally unsuccessful Lock Up (that one had the benefit of evil Donald Sutherland, though; any movie is improved by an evil Donald Sutherland).

One wonders if Disney threw Selleck a bone as Three Men and a Baby had done so well. If so, they were sure not to make that mistake again. Still, lest you thought it was all over for Tom, he still had Quigley Down Under up his sleeve. As for Yates, you can only flop so many times before you just aren’t going to get the calls any more, and next in line was Year of the Comet. If An Innocent Man had been lively super cheese, that might have been something, but it’s just flat and rather silly.

Popular posts from this blog

The Bible never said anything about amphetamines.

The Color of Money (1986) (SPOILERS) I tend to think it’s evident when Scorsese isn’t truly exercised by material. He can still invest every ounce of the technical acumen at his fingertips, and the results can dazzle on that level, but you don’t really feel the filmmaker in the film. Which, for one of his pictures to truly carry a wallop, you need to do. We’ve seen quite a few in such deficit in recent years, most often teaming with Leo. The Color of Money , however, is the first where it was out-and-out evident the subject matter wasn’t Marty’s bag. He needed it, desperately, to come off, but in the manner a tradesman who wants to keep getting jobs. This sequel to The Hustler doesn’t linger in the mind, however good it may be, moment by moment.

I said I had no family. I didn’t say I had an empty apartment.

The Apartment (1960) (SPOILERS) Billy Wilder’s romcom delivered the genre that rare Best Picture Oscar winner. Albeit, The Apartment amounts to a rather grim (now) PG-rated scenario, one rife with adultery, attempted suicide, prostitution of the soul and subjective thereof of the body. And yet, it’s also, finally, rather sweet, so salving the darker passages and evidencing the director’s expertly judged balancing act. Time Out ’s Tom Milne suggested the ending was a cop out (“ boy forgives girl and all’s well ”). But really, what other ending did the audience or central characters deserve?

Listen to the goddamn qualified scientists!

Don’t Look Up (2021) (SPOILERS) It’s testament to Don’t Look Up ’s “quality” that critics who would normally lap up this kind of liberal-causes messaging couldn’t find it within themselves to grant it a free pass. Adam McKay has attempted to refashion himself as a satirist since jettisoning former collaborator Will Ferrell, but as a Hollywood player and an inevitably socio-politically partisan one, he simply falls in line with the most obvious, fatuous propagandising.

Your desecration of reality will not go unpunished.

2021-22 Best-of, Worst-of and Everything Else Besides The movies might be the most visible example of attempts to cling onto cultural remnants as the previous societal template clatters down the drain. It takes something people really want – unlike a Bond movie where he kicks the can – to suggest the model of yesteryear, one where a billion-dollar grosser was like sneezing. You can argue Spider-Man: No Way Home is replete with agendas of one sort or another, and that’s undoubtedly the case (that’s Hollywood), but crowding out any such extraneous elements (and they often are) is simply a consummate crowd-pleaser that taps into tangible nostalgia through its multiverse take. Of course, nostalgia for a mere seven years ago, for something you didn’t like anyway, is a symptom of how fraught these times have become.

Doctors make the worst patients.

Coma (1978) (SPOILERS) Michael Crichton’s sophomore big-screen feature, and by some distance his best. Perhaps it’s simply that this a milieu known to him, or perhaps it’s that it’s very much aligned to the there-and-now and present, but Coma , despite the occasional lapse in this adaptation of colleague Robin Cook’s novel, is an effective, creepy, resonant thriller and then some. Crichton knows his subject, and it shows – the picture is confident and verisimilitudinous in a way none of his other directorial efforts are – and his low-key – some might say clinical – approach pays dividends. You might also call it prescient, but that would be to suggest its subject matter wasn’t immediately relevant then too.

You ruined every suck-my-silky-ass thing!

The Matrix Resurrections (2021) (SPOILERS) Warner Bros has been here before. Déjà vu? What happens when you let a filmmaker do whatever they want? And I don’t mean in the manner of Netflix. No, in the sequel sense. You get a Gremlins 2: The New Batch (a classic, obviously, but not one that financially furthered a franchise). And conversely, when you simply cash in on a brand, consequences be damned? Exorcist II: The Heretic speaks for itself. So in the case of The Matrix Resurrections – not far from as meta as The New Batch , but much less irreverent – when Thomas “Tom” Anderson, designer of globally successful gaming trilogy The Matrix , is told “ Our beloved company, Warner Bros, has decided to make a sequel to the trilogy ” and it’s going ahead “with or without us”, you can be fairly sure this is the gospel. That Lana, now going it alone, decided it was better to “make the best of it” than let her baby be sullied. Of course, quite what that amounts to in the case of a movie(s) tha

You just threw a donut in the hot zone!

Den of Thieves (2018) (SPOILERS) I'd heard this was a shameless  Heat  rip-off, and the presence of Gerard Butler seemed to confirm it would be passable-at-best B-heist hokum, so maybe it was just middling expectations, even having heard how enthused certain pockets of the Internet were, but  Den of Thieves  is a surprisingly very satisfying entry in the genre. I can't even fault it for attempting to Keyser Soze the whole shebang at the last moment – add a head in a box and you have three 1995 classics in one movie – even if that particular conceit doesn’t quite come together.

Abandon selective targeting. Shoot everything.

28 Weeks Later (2007) (SPOILERS) The first five minutes of 28 Weeks Later are far and away the best part of this sequel, offering in quick succession a devastating moral quandary and a waking nightmare, immortalised on the screen. After that, while significantly more polished, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo reveals his concept to be altogether inferior to Danny Boyle and Alex Garland’s, falling back on the crutches of gore, nihilism, and disengaging and limiting shifts of focus between characters in whom one has little investment in the first place.

It’s always possible to find a good moral reason for killing anybody.

The Assassination Bureau (1969) (SPOILERS) The Assassination Bureau ought to be a great movie. You can see its influence on those who either think it is a great movie, or want to produce something that fulfils its potential. Alan Moore and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen . The just-released (and just-flopped) The King’s Men . It inhabits a post-Avengers, self-consciously benign rehearsal of, and ambivalence towards, Empire manners and attitudes, something that could previously be seen that decade in Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (and sequel Monte Carlo or Bust , also 1969), Adam Adamant Lives! , and even earlier with Kind Hearts and Coronets , whilst also feeding into that “Peacock Revolution” of Edwardian/Victorian fashion refurbishment. Unfortunately, though, it lacks the pop-stylistic savvy that made, say, The President’s Analyst so vivacious.