Saturday, July 05, 2014

Desperate Hours (1990 film)

Based on the novel and play by Joseph Hayes, Desperate Hours is the story of an escaped criminal who breaks into a house and takes over while terrorizing a family with two of his friends. Directed by Michael Cimino with a screenplay by Hayes, Lawrence Konner, and Mark Rosenthal, the film is a remake of the 1955 film by William Wyler that starred Humphrey Bogart and Fredric March as it’s set in a more modern setting. Starring Mickey Rourke, Anthony Hopkins, Mimi Rogers, Kelly Lynch, Elias Koteas, David Morse, Shawnee Smith, Matt McGrath, Danny Gerard, and Lindsay Crouse. Desperate Hours is an eerie though somewhat uneven film from Michael Cimino.

The film is a home invasion story about an escaped criminal who hides out at the home of a man who has become estranged from his wife as they’re taken hostage at home. Yet, it’s a film about control and trust where the criminal Michael Bosworth (Mickey Rourke) is waiting for his lawyer/lover Nancy Breyers (Kelly Lynch) to be cleared from accusations that she was the one who broke him out of jail as he is being charged for all sorts of crimes. With the help of his brother Wally (Elias Koteas) and an unhinged, half-wit criminal Albert (David Morse), Bosworth would hide out at the home of Nora Cornell (Mimi Rogers) who is selling her home as she and her husband Tim (Anthony Hopkins) are estranged due to Tim’s infidelity with a young woman. Once Bosworth takes control of the Cornell home, he would instill elements of trust where Nora is more likely to trust Bosworth than Tim as it relates to her life and the life of their kids in the 15-year old May (Shawnee Smith) and the eight-year old Zack (Danny Gerard).

The film’s screenplay does take its time to explore a family being invaded by criminals where in control is this sociopath who is trying to make sure everything goes normal until he can flee with his girlfriend and associates with some money. Yet, the actions of Nancy Breyers only gets the attention of a very intelligent and no-nonsense FBI special agent in Brenda Chandler (Lindsay Crouse) who doesn’t buy Nancy’s act and knows where she’s going as she hopes to nab Bosworth. Though the script is pretty uneven as part of it is set at the Cornell home where Tim tries to reconcile with Nora only for things to go wrong with the Bosworth brothers and Albert taking over where Nora has trust issues with Tim. The other part of the script involves Chandler’s pursuit and watching over Nancy where it has this element of the road movie but it never really gels since Nancy is a very underwritten character who is just lovesick over Bosworth and is put into very tense situations. The scenes at the Cornell home is interesting where there is a sense of psychology as the family isn’t sure who to trust as Bosworth doesn’t try to hurt anyone while Tim tries to do something only to get himself into trouble.

Michael Cimino’s direction is pretty engaging for the way he conveys this element of suspense and dread inside a family’s home as it’s taken over by criminals. Especially as he maintains that sense of tense intimacy with some close-ups and unique medium shots where Cimino’s framing is always there to play into the drama as well as some of tension that goes on. The scenes outside of the Cornell home is shot in various locations in Utah where it plays into Cimino’s sensibilities in terms of the mountains, deserts, and such that does have this sense of beauty in the locations where Cimino is able to display them in a wide canvas. Yet, it adds to film’s uneven tone where it does feel like it’s two different films being made in some aspects though it would come together in a very intense third act. Especially as it becomes a battle of wits and trust where the FBI is also involved in Chandler who takes a more cautious but unconventional approach to let the fates play out. Overall despite a few inconsistencies in its tone, Cimino does craft a very captivating and solid thriller about a family’s home invaded by criminals.

Cinematographer Douglas Milsome does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography with the gorgeous lighting for many of the daytime exteriors in the Utah desert/mountain locations to more ominous lighting schemes and such to play into the dramatic tension at the Cornell house. Editors Peter R. Hunt and Christopher Rouse do excellent work with the editing to create some methodical cuts to play into the film‘s suspense along with some rhythmic cuts for some of the car chase scenes involving Nancy and the FBI. Production designer Victoria Paul, with set decorator Crispian Sallis and art director Patricia Klawonn, does nice work with the look of the Cornell house to play into its sense of intimacy and the terror that Bosworth would bring.

Costume Charles DeCaro does terrific work with the costumes from the clothes of the Cornell family that is quite casual to the Armani suits that Bosworth wears. Sound editor James J. Klinger does superb work with the sound from the way the helicopters, planes, and cars sound in the exteriors to the intense atmosphere of the Cornell home as it has this air of terror in the film. The film’s music by David Mansfield is amazing for its soaring orchestral score to play into its suspense and drama along with some low-key pieces to showcase the estrangement between Tim and Nora.

The casting by Mary Colquhoun is wonderful as it features some notable small roles from James Rebhorn as a prosecutor, Matt McGrath as May’s boyfriend Kyle, Gerry Bamman as a real-estates agent, and Dean Norris as Chandler’s FBI associate Maddox. Shawnee Smith is alright as Tim and Nora’s teenage daughter May who tries to antagonize Bosworth and his gang while Danny Gerard is quite good as May’s younger brother Zack who deals with the terror of being taken hostage. Kelly Lynch is pretty terrible as Nancy Breyers where it’s not just the character that is terrible but Lynch never really does anything to make anyone care about her as she spends half the film topless and often be worried. Elias Koteas is terrific as Bosworth’s brother Wally who keeps things in control while trying to make sure that the family has nothing to worry about. David Morse is excellent as the more troubled criminal Albert who becomes anxious as he would later become a liability to the situation.

Lindsay Crouse is amazing as the no-nonsense FBI special agent Brenda Chandler who is this very offbeat character that talks in a Southern accent as she knows how to handle situations and can read people better than her fellow agents. Mimi Rogers is fantastic as Nora Cornell as this woman who becomes aware of the situation as she tries to keep things from not going wrong while being very unsure on who to trust. Anthony Hopkins is superb as the Tim Cornell as a man trying to regain his wife’s trust after cheating on her as he deals with Michael Bosworth’s presence and the situation that is happening as he is goaded to take action only to figure out what to do to not hurt his family. Finally, there’s Mickey Rouke in an incredible performance as Michael Bosworth as this very smart sociopath who takes control of an entire house as he tries to play a game of trust on Nora to turn against her own husband as it’s a very fiery and intense performance from Rourke.

While it is a film with some flaws and an inconsistent tone, Desperate Hours is still a solid film from Michael Cimino. Armed with great performances from Mickey Rourke, Anthony Hopkins, Mimi Rogers, and Lindsay Crouse. It’s a film that plays into the world of home invasion as well as a compelling look into the world of trust and guilt. In the end, Desperate Hours is a pretty good film from Michael Cimino.

Michael Cimino Films: Thunderbolt & Lightfoot - The Deer Hunter - Heaven’s Gate - Year of the Dragon - The Sicilian - The Sunchaser - To Each His Own Cinema: No Translation Needed - The Auteurs #35: Michael Cimino

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