After college, I lived alone in a tiny apartment in Allston, MA where I watched a lot of video tapes I rented from an independent video store. The store was at the corner of Allston and Commonwealth Avenue. Ultimately, the shop was was sold to Hollywood Video. Hollywood Video went bankrupt in the early 2000s, obviously.
If you’re of a certain age, you too may remember visits to the video store. If you don’t (drugs, booze, youth), VHS tapes and DVD cases took up a ton of space. Once demand for a title dried up, they were stacked on a table and sold, three or four for $20. So sometimes I bought tapes instead of renting, because, if I’m being honest, I never return anything on time. In the end, $5 was a deal, in the end, even if you ended up that copy of Waterworld no one wanted to permanently borrow.1
Twilight was one of those. No, not the silly vampire movie that’s inspired so much fanfic and enforced many ill-considered gender roles. This Twilight was made when Kristen Stewart was a wee baby and stars Paul Newman as private investigator Harry Ross.
In the first act, Harry is down in Mexico looking for Reese Witherspoon‘s character, Mel. She’s (presumably; we never really know) living it up with her much-older boyfriend Jeff (Liev Schreiber) and Harry’s been hired to bring her home to her parents. While he’s dragging her out of the resort, Mel manages to get hold of Harry’s gun. She drops it, it discharges, and the round finds a home near his balls. This is important.
Jump forward a few years, Harry is now living with Mel and her family, doing odd jobs around their mansion, as he recuperates from his physical and mental wounds. Mel’s parents are Catherine and Jack Ames, 1970s-era Hollywood Royalty, played, respectively, by Susan Sarandon and Gene Hackman. No one really says why they keep him around, but one suspects Harry’s there foe Jack to take advantage of and for Catherine to tease with nude swims in their giant pool.
One day Jack, who has terminal cancer, asks Harry to take an envelope of money to a woman across town.
“It’s not a bribe,” he tells Harry.
Of course it’s a bribe.
And, of course, at the drop-off, instead of a woman with the goods on Jack and Catherine’s shady past, Harry finds another terminal man, retired cop Lester Ivar and, also, the business end of Lester’s .38.
Seems that Lester was the lead on the investigation into the disappearance of Catherine’s first husband. Was Lester really getting the bribe to keep quite about a 30 year old disappearance? Lester’s death and nearly getting his own ticket punched twice in as many years – not to mention his lust for Catherine – sets Harry off on his journey to find out.
Don’t come at me with your Steve McQueen. Newman, Hackman, and James Garner (Raymond Hope, Harry’s lifelong frenemy) are my idea of cinematic cool. Even in their 70s, they were tougher than you. At 71, Hackman bopped a guy in the face over a fender bender on Sunset Boulevard. The accident was was likely Hackman’s fault anyway, but so it goes…
But it’s not just the old dudes. I like Schreiber a lot here as a bumbling idiot with a rambling dick, in way over his head, and especially as a woebegone spy in The Sum of All Fears or as Ray Donovan in Ray Donovan.2 Giancarlo Esposito, super young in this movie, is good in everything he does. I’m partial to his work on Homicide, but you probably know him from Breaking Bad. You can check him out in The Get Down, too, because that show was good and could have stuck around.3 And then there’s Margo Martindale, who played Gloria ‘Mucho Tits, Mucho Ass’ Lamar. She’s been in almost everything, but I know her best as the character Mags Bennet in Justified, a gangland matriarch who kills her enemies by putting a little poison in their mason jar before they take a sip of her moonshine.
They all do a good job of delivering the dialogue written by Richard Russo, even if the overall story is a bit workmanlike. The tale is one we’ve seen before, including the femme fatale who is MORE THAN SHE SEEMS and sleeps with our hero to keep him OFF THE CASE.
[Harry turns away when he sees Catherine swimming nude.]https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119594/quotes/qt0105608
Catherine Ames: Honestly, Harry. Did you see me in “The Last Rebel”?
Harry Ames: Yeah.
Catherine Ames: And you saw me in “The End of Desire”?
Harry Ames: Yeah.
Catherine Ames: Then I think you’ve seen everything there is of me to see.
Harry Ames: I also remember a movie your husband made. He shot 12 guys with a 6-shot revolver. I ain’t gonna argue with that kind of marksmanship.
There’s also a weird exchange between Harry and Raymond. After Ivar’s murder, Harry’s old girlfriend, Verna Hollander (Stockard Channing), a police lieutenant, arrests him and brings him to the local station house. After she releases him, Harry runs into Raymond, who notices the Verna.
Raymond Hope: You tell Verna if she ever gets the urge to hump an old man… she can hump me. I’m in the book.http://www.script-o-rama.com/movie_scripts/t/twilight-script-transcript-paul-newman.html
BOTH: Under “Hump.”
When they both say “…Under ‘Hump'” they act like it’s a joke I should get but I don’t think anyone born after 1940 could understand why this was HI-LARIOUS.
Twilight is not a perfect movie. The savvy viewer will see the red herrings brightly. The foreshadowing darkens every scene. The tough guys aren’t really that tough and the seemingly easy going have been scheming from frame one. No one lies, but if they try, we know and Harry knows that they are lying.
It’s not Hallmark Mystery Channel light, but it’s pretty close.
James Garner essentially plays “James Garner” in his movies and this was the least interesting iteration of “James Garner.” Except for the “Hump” quote, naturally.
Still, as Paul Newman is pretty cool, even at 73 years old and the dialogue is snappy, it’s a perfectly fine movie for a night in, with an overstuffed sub or greasy Chinese takeout. A solid 7 out of 10.
Oh, I lost track of the cassette an apartment move ago and the DVD is hard to come by. I watched it on Amazon Prime.
- Waterworld was one of the most expensive films every made because the first set sunk in a typhoon. The $ is not reflected in the script or the acting. I prefer The Postman which is essentially the same movie. ↩
- Although I had to stop watching as they gave Jon Voight more screen time. It’s not just his politics. He’s creepy AF. ↩
- Also, check out his bio: “(Esposito) was one of the chorus of children who sang the theme song of The Electric Company” !!! ↩