Eccentric Vietnam War vet turned janitor claims to have witnessed a murder of a man tied to international political underground in order to get the attention of a TV reporter he has a huge crush on. The cops suspect his loser best friend.
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Manhattan janitor Daryll Deever is fixated on hard-charging TV commentator, Tony Sokolow; he tapes her commentary daily to watch after work. When a wealthy Vietnamese man, with many shady connections, is murdered in the office building where Daryll works, Tony shows up to cover the story and Daryll introduce himself. She thinks he may know something, so she pursues him; he pretends he might to keep her interested. This romantic cat and mouse game goes on under the watchful eyes of the killers, who think that Daryll and Tony do know something. The killers start their own game of cat and mouse. Written by
There is a security camera very obviously placed in the outer office outside of where the murder takes place, yet during the investigation no mention is made of it. However, perhaps (circa 1981) it's a closed-circuit, live feed only (no recordings made), and no one viewing the live security screens noticed anything unusual. See more »
This 1981 murder thriller, from a big studio with big stars of the time, with corny vintage taglines and advertisements, is good entertainment squarely because it pays more application to its people than its story. It's indubitably set in America, from the innards of a Manhattan boiler room to the newsroom of a TV station, even though it's about such real, involved, curious, and occasionally hilarious people that it have got to at the least be transatlantic.
This underrated neo-noir stars William Hurt as a janitor who happens upon proof that could lead to the conclusion of a murder investigation. But he doesn't go to the police with it because he's too reticent, too reflective, too doubtful of what he's seen and, mainly, he's too much in love from a distance with Sigourney Weaver's TV news reporter. Perhaps he can gain her regard by giving her the inside story.
There are other dilemmas. Sigourney Weaver's fiancée is an Israeli agent played by Christopher Plummer, who is embroiled in cloak-and-dagger overseas interventions to smuggle Jews out of the Soviet Union. His plan concerns secret fees to a corrupt Vietnamese agent who has now moved to Manhattan. The other characters include James Woods, as Hurt's impetuous and short-fused best friend and recently fired colleague, and Steven Hill and Morgan Freeman as a couple of stoic cops who ponderously trace leads in the case. One of their memorably stoic quips: "When Aldo was a little boy, he must have wanted to be a suspect when he grew up."
The advancement and resolution of the murder mystery are handled rather conventionally by director Peter Yates, who made some great thrillers like The Hot Rock and Bullitt, and his screenwriter, Steve Tesich. A climactic showdown in a midtown riding stable and its barely existent denouement has a touch of every thriller from the 1980s. But what makes this movie so enjoyable is the way Yates and Tesich and their characters play against our assumptions. It shows that there really is no excuse for a lack of cutting edge or creative spirit in genre films, because this one achieves a very poised harmony of the familiar and the original, predictability and unpredictability. Genres rely upon the audience's savvy and familiarity, on the seasoning they've stengthened from seeing movies and the frame of comparable encounters from they can evoke.
Weaver is not only a TV newswoman, but also a determined pianist on the side and the dejected daughter of her oppressive parents. Hurt is not only a janitor but also an emotional introvert, an animal lover who can rhapsodize his way into Weaver's heart. Woods is not only an unhinged janitor but also the forceful advocate of a marriage between his sister and Hurt. Hurt and the sister continue the engagement because they are both too nice to tell the other one they're not in love. And as a mystery thriller, it gives us multiple conceivable suspects and resolutions to the murder it sets up as a way of misleading us until the proper time to reveal the killer.
I've seen so many thrillers that, honestly, I don't always care that much how they resolve lest they're particularly well-crafted. What I like about this buried gem is that, where it has regard for how it turns out, it has even more regard for the essence of its scenes. There's not a scene in this movie that just constitutes plot information. Every scene defines characters. And they're developed in such uncommon integrity to the way people do act that we get all the more consumed in the mystery, merely considering that we comparatively trust it could actually be real. Actually, I'm going to buckle and say that there is one tagline for this movie that is pretty good: "You're never more vulnerable than when you've seen too much."
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