Monday, July 30, 2012

Blood Out Of A Sock

TWILIGHT’s screenplay by director Robert Benton (KRAMER VS. KRAMER) and Richard Russo (THE ICE HARVEST) may play as nothing special to mystery fans, but it’s a real joy to see a veteran cast at this level tear into it.

Benton and star Paul Newman had previously teamed to make NOBODY’S FOOL, for which Newman received a Best Actor Oscar nomination, and he plays a similarly aimless character here. I suppose there’s a little bit of Lew Harper, whom Newman portrayed in 1966’s HARPER (an adaptation of a Ross Macdonald Lew Archer novel), in it too.

Harry Ross (Newman) is a private eye and ex-cop who lives in a Hollywood mansion with Catherine (Susan Sarandon) and Jack Ames (Gene Hackman), two movie stars of the 1970s. Harry did a job for the Ameses two years earlier, bringing back their teenage daughter Melanie (20-year-old Reese Witherspoon, who appears topless) from Mexico and getting shot in the groin in the process. His relationship with the Ameses is interestingly rendered. He is friendly with his landlords, who let him live rent-free (perhaps out of guilt because of his injury), yet it’s clear the rundown Harry is considered an employee.

Jack, suffering from cancer that leaves him with less than two years to live, asks Harry to run an errand for him: to deliver an envelope to a woman. As with all good pulp fiction, Harry arrives at the address to find the house empty except for an elderly ex-cop shot dead and an army of cops eager to arrest him. It all leads to adultery, dark secrets, blackmail, and new twists in the twenty-year-old disappearance of Catherine’s first husband.

James Garner (THE ROCKFORD FILES) adds to the star wattage as an old friend of both Jack Ames and Ross. Surprisingly, Newman had never co-starred in a film with Hackman, Garner, or Sarandon, which makes TWILIGHT a special treat, despite its derivative story. Cast also includes Stockard Channing, John Spencer (THE WEST WING), Margo Martindale (an Emmy winner for JUSTIFIED), Liev Schrieber, Giancarlo Esposito, and M. Emmet Walsh.

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