Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB. USA/West Germany, 1981. CIP Filmproduktion GmbH, Lorimar Film Entertainment, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, New Gold Entertainment, Northstar International. Screenplay by David Mamet, based on the novel by James M. Cain. Cinematography by Sven Nykvist. Produced by Charles Mulvehill, Bob Rafelson. Music by Michael Small. Production Design by George Jenkins. Costume Design by Dorothy Jeakins. Film Editing by Graeme Clifford.
Dreary update of the 1946 classic adapted from the novel by James M. Cain isn’t as entertaining. Jack Nicholson plays the shady drifter who takes a grunt job at a roadside gas station and finds himself getting steamy over the owner’s young, beautiful wife (Jessica Lange). The two begin an affair that culminates with them murdering the old man and getting away with it, but how long before their corrupt liaison works against them from within? The period details are perfection, right down to the grease spots on the wall, but the drama doesn’t have any snap. David Mamet’s pretentious screenplay is rife with great dialogue, but the author of countless misogynistic plays about men sitting around yapping about their own glory is not a genre writer. Lange and Nicholson have terrific chemistry, and are quite bold in the film’s raunchy sex scenes, but hot sex can only make two hours go by quickly in real life.