Tag Archives: William Sadler

Hard to Kill (1990, Bruce Malmuth)

The best thing about Hard to Kill is how hard supporting player Frederick Coffin tries. He doesn’t have much of a part, but it’s got some soap opera dramatics to it and Coffin goes for it. There’s nothing to the script and there’s no support from director Malmuth, so Coffin flops. Quite literally skidding on pavement. But the trying is obvious and it shows a level of dedication no one else has about the film.

Except star Steven Seagal, as Hard to Kill is a commercial for the concept of Steven Seagal as a movie star. It’s a vanity project. Only director Malmuth stubbornly refuses to engage with that fact. Malmuth does a terrible job directing the film and its actors. It isn’t like Malmuth is trying to direct it differently either. He’s not trying to do some serious cop drama or even visceral action picture while Seagal’s strutting around, showing off real-life wife Kelly LeBrock as love interest–after doing a family values hard sell with some praying–no, Malmuth doesn’t do anything. He lets LeBrock embarrass herself (though he does what he can to protect Bonnie Burroughs as the other female character–there are really only two in Hard to Kill). He doesn’t do Seagal any favors.

Terrible William Sadler performance in one of the worst roles of the twentieth century. You just feel sorry for him, especially with what he eventually has to go through. He’s surrounded by a bunch of despicable cronies. Not a single decent performance among them. The bad guys in Police Academy movies are better written.

Hard to Kill isn’t even paced well; at ninety minutes, it drags all over the place. It’s a bad movie. It’s never going to be much better, but Malmuth could’ve at least let it be fun. Even worse, Malmuth’s direction doesn’t let anyone exhibit competence–his composition’s so bad, who cares how Matthew F. Leonetti lights the shot or how John F. Link edits the scene–though David Michael Frank’s awful score is awful all on its own.

The whole thing is just awful. Good exterior lighting from Leonetti though, I guess. Not at night, but during daylight scenes. He does okay.

The rest is still crap.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Bruce Malmuth; written by Steven McKay; director of photography, Matthew F. Leonetti; edited by John F. Link; music by David Michael Frank; production designer, Robb Wilson King; produced by Gary Adelson, Joel Simon and Bill Todman Jr.; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Steven Seagal (Mason Storm), Kelly LeBrock (Andy Stewart), William Sadler (Vernon Trent), Frederick Coffin (O’Malley), Bonnie Burroughs (Felicia Storm), Zachary Rosencrantz (Sonny Storm), Andrew Bloch (Capt. Hulland), Branscombe Richmond (Quentero) and Charles Boswell (Axel).


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Die Hard 2 (1990, Renny Harlin)

Director Renny Harlin often takes an interesting approach to conversations in Die Hard 2. He’ll have a character look off screen and interact with what they see, without ever establishing what they’re seeing. Oftentimes it happens with someone interacting with star Bruce Willis–Harlin only gives Willis this treatment once; it both focuses attention on Willis, but also opens Die Hard 2 up a little. Harlin acknowledges the greater world the audience isn’t seeing. It’s really a neat technical move; Stuart Baird’s sublime editing makes it even better.

Willis’s appealing performance and some nice dialogue exchanges manage to divert attention from Die Hard 2‘s bigger problems. First, William Sadler’s not much of a villain. Sadler’s not bad, but the role’s poorly written. Ditto for returning cast members Bonnie Bedelia and William Atherton. Screenwriters Steven E. de Souza and Doug Richardson treat the picture as sixty percent sequel, forty percent reunion. Reginald VelJohnson shows up for a scene just to remind the audience how much they enjoyed the first film and to encourage them to give this one a pass on its lesser moments.

There’s a surprisingly lack of action for long stretches. For the first half, all the action’s fantastic. In the second, it’s passable, nothing more. Oliver Wood’s photography’s a lot more interesting in confined places. The outdoor, nighttime action sequences of the last third are a bore.

While it’s uneven (the first half’s so much better), Die Hard 2‘s still a fun time and technical marvel.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Renny Harlin; screenplay by Steven E. de Souza and Doug Richardson, based on a novel by Walter Wager; director of photography, Oliver Wood; edited by Stuart Baird; music by Michael Kamen; production designer, John Vallone; produced by Lawrence Gordon, Joel Silver and Charles Gordon; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Bruce Willis (Lt. John McClane), Bonnie Bedelia (Holly McClane), William Atherton (Richard Thornburg), William Sadler (Col. Stuart), Dennis Franz (Capt. Carmine Lorenzo), Sheila McCarthy (Samantha ‘Sam’ Coleman), Art Evans (Leslie Barnes), Fred Dalton Thompson (Trudeau), John Amos (Maj. Grant), Franco Nero (Gen. Ramon Esperanza), Tom Bower (Marvin) and Reginald VelJohnson (Sgt. Al Powell).


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The Hot Spot (1990, Dennis Hopper)

One of the most important things about a film noir is the ending. It has to be perfect. It doesn’t matter what comes before, the ending just has to be right. The Hot Spot is a film noir. It’s not a neo-noir. There’s an important distinction. Hopper seems very aware of that distinction; everything he does in the film engages it. But The Hot Spot‘s in color and the frame isn’t academy ratio–when it comes down to it, these differences are showier than the more obvious ones. What Hopper does is present a hard-boiled film noir with everything explicit–it’s not just the sex, it’s the violence. Neither are implied or hinted at–Hopper shows them both in detail. By the first violent scene, that angle completely overshadows the graphic sex. It’s so violent, it’s like he’s going too far (but it’s only fair, given how far he took the sex).

Oh, the ending. I kind of forgot about it (I wish I could).

The Hot Spot‘s ending is a dismal failure. The film’s shockingly good until the end. I never thought I’d be comparing Don Johnson to Robert Mitchum (before I even read the script was written, in 1962, for Mitchum), but he’s like Robert Mitchum here. His delivery of the dialogue is perfect. He’s got a real lack of affect–his eyes don’t emote–and it plays perfectly here. Watching his seemingly soulless character fill with hopes and dreams… it’s wonderful. Too bad about the end.

What happens at the end–and The Hot Spot takes a hit with its final pseudo-scene. A real big hit. Before, it’s already impaired, but the last shot is just rubbish. Anyway, what happens is simple. Dennis Hopper seems to think Virginia Madsen is giving a good performance and she should have more material. Madsen’s performance–and her Texan accent–is laughable. If it weren’t for Jennifer Connelly’s laughable performance (and Texan accent), it’d be stunning. It’s like Hopper casted both women based on their willingness to do nude scenes. Connelly’s character spends a lot of time being quiet and demure, so that awful accent isn’t popping up all the time. Madsen can’t shut up. Yap, yap, yap. It’s embarrassing to both Johnson and the film.

The end falls apart because Hopper relies on Madsen. I have no idea how it would have played with a good actor in her role–because, by the third act, it’s impossible to imagine anything but the horror of Madsen’s performance. It’s excruciating.

Hopper’s direction is excellent. Ueli Steiger’s photography is good (Wende Phifer Mate’s editing is lacking). The supporting cast–Charles Martin Smith especially–is great… Barry Corbin, Jerry Hardin. Only William Sadler (mostly because of his bad accent) is weak.

Until the last fifteen minutes, The Hot Spot was a veritable joy to watch. The ending’s such a misfire, it’s hard to believe no one said anything about it while they were filming. Like a rigger looked up from plugging in some lights and said, “This is terrible.”

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Dennis Hopper; screenplay by Nona Tyson and Charles Wiliams, based on a novel by Williams; director of photography, Ueli Steiger; edited by Wende Phifer Mate; music by Jack Nitzsche; production designer, Cary White; produced by Paul Lewis; released by Orion Pictures.

Starring Don Johnson (Harry Madox), Virginia Madsen (Dolly Harshaw), Jennifer Connelly (Gloria Harper), Charles Martin Smith (Lon Gulick), William Sadler (Frank Sutton), Jerry Hardin (George Harshaw), Barry Corbin (Sheriff), Leon Rippy (Deputy Tate), Jack Nance (Julian Ward), Virgil Frye (Deputy Buck) and John Hawker (Uncle Mort).


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