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INTO THE NIGHT

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Nov. 3, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here’s an amusing but unnecessarily violent comedy that offered Jeff Goldblum a rare leading-man role. Since Goldblum is co-starring in the new “Thor” movie right now and the Shout! Factory has given the film a new Blu-ray upgrade, here’s my March 8, 1985, Deseret News review.

The trouble with John Landis is excess. He never knows when to hold back.

“Kentucky Fried Movie,” “National Lampoon’s Animal House,” “The Blues Brothers,” “An American Werewolf in London,” “Trading Places,” even the Michael Jackson video “Thriller” — what they all have in common is overkill, in one department or another.

And so it is with his latest, “Into the Night.”

This film might have been better had it been packaged as a supplement to Trivial Pursuit, since there are dozens of movie directors in bit parts, and two in major supporting roles — Paul Mazursky and Roger Vadim.

While film buffs are playing “spot the director,” however, those who are trying to follow the film may have more trouble.

“Into the Night” begins quite well, with poor Jeff Goldblum suffering from mid-30s burnout. His job is a drag, his life is routine and he’s just discovered his wife is cheating on him.

     

            David Bowie, Jeff Goldblum, 'Into the Night'

As if all this isn’t enough, he’s had insomnia for months. And that’s what leads to the film’s plot. While driving around late one night, unable to sleep, Goldblum parks underground at the Los Angeles Airport and Michelle Pfeiffer literally falls into his life.

She is on the run from four Iranian killers (one of them played by Landis himself) because she has stolen six precious emeralds. She teams up with Goldblum, and for the next two days they are on the lam together.

There are some very funny turns, such as Pfeiffer’s brother being an Elvis freak, but there are also some extremely violent scenes that tend to knock the comedy to the floor.

Occasionally “Into the Night” seems on the verge of really catching fire, but mostly it just meanders about, not knowing what it wants to do or be. The plot twists are illogical and ridiculous, and because the film is not paced as a farce they are hard to accept. Too often the goings-on are entrenched in realism — shockingly horrifying realism — and it’s quite jarring.

Goldblum, who has been an outstanding supporting player for years (“The Big Chill,” “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai,” “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”), fares as well as he can in “Into the Night,” though he seems to be taking his insomniac role a bit too far most of the time, walking about in a trance. Pfeiffer, however, is enchanting.

     

Others, like Kathryn Harrold and Richard Farnsworth, are utterly wasted, with very little to do. And, in addition to “spot the director,” you can play “spot the guest star,” which is easier — Dan Aykroyd, David Bowie, Irene Papas and Vera Miles among them, all in small roles.

One of the trademarks of a Landis film is the breaking of his toys, i.e., the sets. He seems to love to destroy things, and this film is no exception, as everything from Elvis memorabilia to furniture is trashed. (No one in an ape suit this time, though.)

There is also another strange trait here; the killers are so mean they even kill animals, specifically a dog and three parrots. People die just as easily, and there are several brutally bloody killings. One death in particular, a drowning, seems completely unnecessary and cruel.

Still, the film does have its moments, and there are a few scenes here that are quite funny. Landis has a fine sense of comedy, but he could use a collaborator to pull in the reins from time to time. His movies always have nice moments, but they are so raggedy in spots, you just know they could be better.

“Into the Night,” rated R for violence, nudity, sex and profanity, is a very cynical film, one that seems to take an odd pleasure in the grotesque.