Against All Odds (1984)

“It’s simple: either you want to play football again, or you don’t.”

AAO Poster

Synopsis:
A football player (Jeff Bridges) recently fired from his team is hired by a gambler (James Woods) to hunt down his missing girlfriend (Rachel Ward) in Mexico; but things get sticky when Bridges falls for Ward himself.

Genres:

Review:
Few elements work in this well-meaning but fatally flawed update of Jacques Tourneur’s classic Out of the Past (1947). While both Bridges and Ward are naturally appealing leads, they’re saddled with such an awkward, muddled script (the synopsis above barely touches on the complexity of the dense plot, which involves insider gambling and high-level corruption) that it’s difficult to care about either their ill-fated romance or their respective predicaments. Ward’s family problems — she’s the spoiled, petulant daughter of a wealthy land developer — are never fully explored, and she fails to project the necessary edginess or complexity of a truly compelling femme fatale. Meanwhile, James Woods is either badly miscast or badly directed in a pivotal role as Ward’s covetous lover — while no one would ever accuse Woods of an inability to project “slime”, he nonetheless fails to embody the “Mr. Big” presence required of his character here. Worst of all, however, is director Taylor Hackford’s decision to have his actors spout neo-noir dialogue (“I love you, Jessie. Why did that have to be a bad thing?”) as though it’s realistic banter; attempts to infuse this type of hardboiled rhetoric into modern cinematic settings (c.f. Rian Johnson’s Brick, 2005) are tricky at best, and the effort fails completely here — it’s almost laughable, but (sadly) not quite. Not even the presence of cinematic icon Richard Widmark (badly underused) or Out of the Past‘s original star, Jane Greer, can revive this disappointing thriller, which should be much better than it is.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
Not much.

Must See?
No; this one can easily be skipped.

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