Richard Rush was a director who made a very specific kind of film. He made them very infrequently, but when they arrived in theaters, they were unmistakably his. His was a very unique style that blended amazing camerawork with stories that involved the protagonist suffering severe emotional blows and looking for solace wherever he or she can find it. Early films like Psych-Out and Getting Straight are some definite examples of this, and he only grew as a director throughout the 60s, 70s, and 80s, often releasing only one or two movies a decade. He had a lot of talent, and to this day he still has a legend that precedes him, although most people wouldn’t know it, seeing as the last movie he made pretty much put the period on the end of his career. Color of Night was a drama made in ’94 that sounds from its description like it could’ve been made in the 60s alongside such French greats as Godard and Truffaut. It fits the archetype perfectly, so it’s a shame that it’s really not very good.
It’s a stock whodunit about a psychoanalyst named Bill Capa who has a series of very bad days. During one of his sessions with a patient, the lady stands up, pulls out a gun, points it at him, rambles a little bit, then jumps to her death from his office window. The traumatic sight of his patient dead on the ground causes him to go colorblind (she was wearing a green dress (AH!)). He has to get away for a while and deal with this horrifying event, so he saunters over to LA, where his friend Bob Moore works and plays. Everything’s going good until BAM!, Mr. Moore is murdered. Can’t a psychoanalyst get a break? So Capa, grief-stricken and disturbed by the loss of his friend, devotes himself to solving the murder himself, poring over clues and possible suspects. He knows that every Monday, Moore’s patients would all gather together for a group meeting, so going off the fact that he had no enemies outside of work and a hunch from the detective assigned to the case, he starts researching the group, suspecting that one of them is the killer. Meanwhile, he chances upon a young girl named Rose during his time in LA, and they hit it off in an explicitly sexual and delightful way. He wants her badly, but he wants to keep her away from the murderer, who might be setting his sights on Capa next…
It effectively eschews the trappings of a classic and settles for a Hollywood version of a Cinemax after-dark skin-flick. Ambiance has been replaced by sleazy dialog, mood has been replaced by slightly pervy ass and titty shots or some stinger moments straight out of Columbo, and suspense has been replaced by Bruce Willis’s weiner. That’s right, you heard me; the sole reason this film ever gained any sort of fame or notoriety was its explicit mainstream sex scenes, one of which involves full-frontal nudity on the part of Bruce Willis. If you’re a chronicler of male celebrity nudity, this is a must-have in your collection, which you can put right next to Monty Python’s The Life of Brian and Italian Stallion. Otherwise, this probably is a lame selling point among other lame selling points.
It’s really quite flat and lifeless stylistically. The shots are dull, with the exception of a few shockers here and there, like the woman in the green dress at the beginning. The LIGHTING is actually bad. Normally, even if the lighting is kind of blasé, it’s not enough to affect a scene, but here, I actually could have used different light in some scenes; it’s just when the lights go out, the world turns into this blue nightmare that was reminiscent of too many bland 90s dramas for me not to notice. And the music, ARGH!!! What a frustrating collection of nothings. You can barely hear the music most of the time, and often not enough to create a discernible opinion of it. As it stands, I’m not blowing out the speakers on my computer to hear what seems to be some not-that-great thriller filler.
Bruce Willis actually puts on the multi-million dollar superstar pants for his role as Bill Capa, turning in what will be looked at as a nominal performance on his part. He takes this role so seriously, he only cracks wise Willis-style one or two times! What a champ! Jane March is about as good as any model who gets her first role alongside a seasoned actor, and by that I mean she’s vapid and annoying. She should have opened up more here, had more of a personality, but I wasn’t interested in her in the slightest, despite her alleged sexiness. And I’ll be generous and say that these two get about 85% of all screen time. It’s a very Willis-centric film, and even though I know he’s the protagonist and all, we really don’t see a lot of other people. The Scott Bakula cameo is nice, Brad Dourif makes a good turn here as a suspect who has the strength of character to beat his wife, even Lance Henriksen pops in to tell Ripley that he needs the alien she’s carrying for research! Well, I think that last one was from another movie, but Henriksen IS in here.
So a terribly tepid affair. I was not impressed. There’s some mildly thrilling scenes, and you MIGHT not guess who the killer is out of sheer ambivalence, but all in all it doesn’t live up to the legacy of Richard Rush. This could’ve been a much better movie if the mood had been altered and the characters were freshened up a bit. But the only thing this movie will be remembered for, in the end, is the stark image of Willis’s willie floating for all to see in a pool in a posh LA backyard. Delightful. I give Color of Night 3 1/2 after-dark skin-flicks out of 10.
Keep tabs on me today for my review of Zombieland!