Movie Review: Desperate Hours (1990)
“At the height of fear every moment is a desperate hour”
Desperate Hours (1990)
Director: Michael Cimino
Cast: Mickey Rourke, Anthony Hopkins, Mimi Rogers
Synopsis: An escaped prisoner takes a family hostage in their own home.
So, there’s this guy – he’s rich, successful, big house, BMW – who leaves his devoted wife and two picture-perfect kids for a piece of tail half his age. Things don’t quite work out, though; the illicit relationship that seemed so alluring when he was chained to the family quickly turns sour, as any man thinking with his brain must have surely known it would. With no firm butt or peachy breasts to spoon with every night he begins to realise that life with the old lady wasn’t so bad after all, even if he doesn’t love her enough to stop him chasing forbidden fruit. So, he tries to worm his way back into her affections, and tries to pretend he never left those kids without a full-time father while he was off getting his jollies. What a low-life. What a perfect sleaze.
His name’s Tim Cornell (Anthony Hopkins – Kidnapping Freddy Heineken, Solace), and believe it or not, he’s the hero of Desperate Hours, Michael Cimino’s biggest flop after Heaven’s Gate. The reason he’s the hero is that, in Michael Bosworth (Mickey Rourke – Year of the Dragon, Blunt Force Trauma), the movie creates a villain so cartoonishly evil that only the likes of Hannibal Lecter would seem evil by comparison. Bosworth’s an escaped convict who, together with his brother Wally (Elias Koteas – Dream House, Now You See Me) and Wally’s not-too-bright buddy, Albert (David Morse – World War Z, Concussion), randomly chooses the Cornell household for a hideout while he waits for his sexy defence lawyer (Kelly Lynch) to show up after convincing the cops she had nothing to do with his bid for freedom. Of course, it’s not long before Cornell comes sniffing around, intent on stepping up his campaign to worm his way back into his wife’s affections, and setting up a woefully uninvolving Alpha Male stand-off.
It’s difficult to understand how Joseph Hayes, the author of the hit stage play, and the subsequent 1955 screen adaptation that provided Humphrey Bogart with one of his better late roles, could make such a mess of this version. Although, how much input the then-72-year-old had is debatable. He shares the writing credit with Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal, who have since co-written their fair share of duds, so there’s a good chance that Hayes’ input was minimal – and that, perhaps, his creative principles were sorely tested. The audience’s patience certainly is as we’re forced to endure some decent actors wrestling with tasteless material which is by turns tacky – Lynch was clearly cast because of the length of her legs and the shape and firmness of her breasts, rather than any acting skills she might possess – and ludicrously overblown. A miscast Anthony Hopkins, still a year away from the ‘fava beans and chianti’ speech that would make him a major star, is clearly working for the next month’s rent and finds it difficult to generate any sympathy for what is admittedly an astonishingly poorly-written character, while, for Rourke, the role of Bosworth is merely just another step on what, in retrospect, appears to be a deliberate and concerted effort to sabotage his own career. Cimino, a director whose stock had fallen considerably since the late 1970s, chooses to ignore the opportunities for psychological games inherent in a hostage/captive scenario, but his doomed attempt to ramp up the suspense is foiled by the slipshod behaviour of the hostage-takers and the subsequent air of inevitability that settles over the entire movie.
(Reviewed 19th May 2016)