“Seduction, betrayal, murder. Who’s conning who?” was the tagline for this crackling, sexy, and lovingly crafted film adaptation about a small-time twenty-something con man who is in over his head with the two con-women in his life, his seductive girlfriend and his steely, authoritative mother.
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I read the Jim Thompson novel years ago and remember enjoying it; perhaps unsurprisingly, this 1990 adaptation from English filmmaker Stephen Frears is directed less like a neo-noir of its era and more like a British comedy of manners that happens to star A-List Hollywood actors. This has the unfortunate tendency of dulling the impact of the story's more hard-boiled elements, including the Oedipal themes.
A kinky, Oedipal, and twisty character driven neo-noir that is always entertaining, but not always enjoyable. The performances are interesting, yet disjointed; the psychology perverse, but not always sharp; the narrative curious, although somewhat unsatisfying. There’s a lingering feeling that there’s a great movie in this story, but this isn’t it.
I waited until now to watch this to not be swayed by the Oscar buzz of the day. Cusack is too bland and Bening is too cartoonish for this to have any legs to stand on. Huston is marvelous as always but the writing fails to support her power. The supposed noir twists are predictable in its contrived "unpredictability". Very disappointing coming from Frears.
No offence to John Cusack, but I can't take him seriously in a neo-noir. It's not entirely his fault, though, because the characters seem overall a bit off (and whoever was responsible for the hairstyling... Yikes). What's worse is that this doesn't seem at all like a Jim Thompson story. The changes aren't huge, but they're enough to make the whole film seem mediocre at best, and the ending was completely botched.