Monday, January 7, 2013

Before They Were Stars: Ruthless People

Hey there boys and girls!  Back again with another series of films to bash or bask in and one film truly come to mind in 1986.  With all the Brat Pack associated, touchy feely films of this time showing us teenage to mid 20’s angst, a movie by Airplanes’ Jim Abrahams stood out.  With an amazing collective cast, wild story arcs and in general bizarre looks into the varied human psyche; this would also be Bill Pullman’s first feature length movie.   So drop your tuckus in that chair, have some bon bons and maybe a refreshing New Coke.   This is Ruthless People.

Spoilers strike without provocation….

Director Jim Abrahams (Police Squad, Airplane, Top Secret, Hot Shots and Jane Austen’s Mafia) and writer Dale Launer (Blind Date, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, My Cousin Vinny and Love Potion No. 9) team up to modernize short story novelist’s O’ Henry’s “The Ransom of the Red Chief” into a warped, fun romantic comedy drama.  

The story is thus: Sam Stone (Danny DeVito of Taxi, Romancing the Stone, Head Office, Batman Returns, Tin Men, Other People’s Money and L.A. Confidential) is a ruthless slimeball clothing manufacturer whose business is afloat in a soft market of clothing design is hell bent to do in his heiress wife Barbara (Bette Midler of The Thorn, Divine Madness, Bette Midler: Art or Bust, Outrageous Fortune, Beaches, Stella, For The Boys, Get Shorty, The First Wives Club and What Women Want) and claim the wealth entitled to his wife as the grieving husband.   Sam schemes, plots and preps for the event all the while he relays his plans to his buxom mistress Carol (Anita Morris of Maria’s Lovers, A Masterpiece of Murder, Blue City, 18 Again! and Bloodhounds of Broadway) fooling around with her in her bed.   Unbeknownst to Sam, Carol and her bumbling, inept boyfriend Earl (Bill Pullman of Spaceballs, The Serpent and the Rainbow, The Accidental Tourist, Going Under, Independence Day, Lake Placid) plan to tape the murder and blackmail Sam and then it is off to Haiti.   Tahiti Carol corrects.  Oh..I knew that.  

Fate plays as strange hand as neither party gets what they want when Sam gets a call from a unanimous person who claims to have kidnapped Barbara and for the sum of 500,000 US he can have her back.  No cops’ involvement, he has a deadline and if all demands are not met Sam will find his wife in the morgue.   
Joy and rapture fills Sam’s heart that soon his wife will be out of the picture and his hands will be clean of it all.  Barbara’s evil abductors are two middle class people struggling to make ends meet after Sam had screwed them on a deal prior.  Ken Kesseler (Judge Reinhold of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Gremlins, Beverly Hills Cop, Beverly Hills Cop II, Zandalee, and Baby on Board) is a stereo salesman and his wife Sandy (Helen Slater of Supergirl, The Secret of My Succe$s, City Slickers, The Steal, and No Way Back) is a gifted designer whose creations Sam nicked given they had no proper license to them and is using them as his own.  These are the type of people that cannot cheat on their taxes, have to pay a parking ticket and simply could not conceive the notion of wrong doing and yet arrive at this slippery slope.

Here are a few quick notes on the film.  The style of cinematography is phenomenal as it is director Jan de Bont (Die Hard, Black Rain, Lethal Weapon 3,  The Hunt for Red October) for car chase scenes and fight scenes, the lighting is exquisite and double entendre is the name of the dialogue.  The humor can be a bit low brow but it is displayed well in the disgust of the cops, the endless griping of Sam and the easy corruption of innocence.  To this day I cannot say who had the best lines.  Between DeVito’s rants, Midler’s foul comments and Reinhold just being decent, it is a gem I would highly recommend.  Pullman is an absolute doofus/gigolo and his scenes are to die for.