Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Mean Season

One-and-done screenwriter Leon Piedmont adapted John Katzenbach’s fine 1982 suspense novel IN THE HEAT OF THE SUMMER for this Orion release. Kurt Russell, in the middle of more lighthearted fare like SWING SHIFT, THE BEST OF TIMES, and BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, stars as Miami newspaper reporter Malcolm Anderson, who’s feeling a bit burned out at work and considering a move to sedate Colorado with his schoolteacher girlfriend Christine (Mariel Hemingway). Then, The Big Story He’s Been Waiting For His Entire Career arrives in the form of a serial killer who calls Malcolm and provides sneak previews of his next murders.

Forming an uneasy alliance with police detectives Wilson (Richard Bradford) and Martinez (Andy Garcia) and a much easier one with the rest of the news media, Malcolm enjoys his new fame, even as it comes at the expense of the killer’s victims. While director Phillip Borsos (THE GREY FOX) and Piedmont are more interested in THE MEAN SEASON’s mainstream thriller elements than in digging into themes of fame and the struggle when the public’s right to know may conflict with public safety, the subtext is there, and Russell, Hemingway, and Richard Masur as Malcolm’s editor play it well.

THE MEAN SEASON takes liberties with Katzenbach’s novel at times, usually not to improve it. It makes sense that Borsos would want to gin up some action and suspense elements for his ending, but the constant false scares and cliches do the story no favors. Borsos demonstrates a keen sense of story and visuals, and his cast plays up to his standards. Russell isn’t afraid to let Malcolm shows some unlikable characteristics, and Hemingway does her best with an underwritten role of The Girlfriend. Richard Jordan (LOGAN’S RUN), who, like Borsos, died young, is mostly heard as a malevolent telephone voice as the seductive killer.

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