Saturday, March 24, 2018
A month at the movies #22: The January Man
I try to find the best in shitty movies, desperate to some redeeming feature and anxious that I haven't just wasted two hours of my fucking life on another dumb horror or stone-face comedy. Even the most odious film can have a line, or a shot, or a plot twist that clicks. It doesn't always make up for the time I've wasted on the bloody thing, but I'll take anything worthwhile. This world is a vast, gaping void of existential dread, I've got to try and fill it with something.
It means I can put up with the unbearable schmaltz of Fincher's Benjamin Button film, because the way it captures the tiny amount of time the characters have when they are finally the same age is fucking stunning; and I can ignore the tedious political maneuvering of Zemeckis' Contact, because the 10 minutes of build-up before Jodie Foster steps out into the universe is extraordinary.
And it means I can get through something as bone-crushingly average as The January Man from 1989. It looks like a failed TV pilot with a strong cast it does nothing with, and has no real style or visual wit. It's got a dumbass serial killer plot that hinges on the murderer following a pattern that can be cracked like a code, which it ignores for plenty of scenes of the main character cooking weird food and chatting up his sister-in-law.
But I still watched the whole thing. It's still starring Kevin Kline, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Susan Sarandon, who are all always good value, and has Alan Rickman floating through the movie as an artist neighbour, clearing there for the Hollywood money, but unable to stop himself from being the most watchable and charming character in the film.
And it's got this dopey climax, where Kline's detective finally catches up with the killer, and they have this long, protracted and clumsy fight down a flight of stairs. It's pretty ridiculous, but has just the right amount of irony, and after years of overkill in every action film, it's pleasantly low key.
It didn't really make up for the time I spent on this movie. But at least I got something out of it. I'll take it.