Director-cowriter James Foley has given this near-perfect adaptation of a Jim Thompson novel a contempo setting and emotional realism that make it as potent as a snakebite.

Director-cowriter James Foley has given this near-perfect adaptation of a Jim Thompson novel a contempo setting and emotional realism that make it as potent as a snakebite.

Foley’s take on After Dark, My Sweet feels right from the first frame, as ex-boxer and nuthouse escapee ‘Kid’ Collins (Jason Patric) shambles into a desert town with a cardboard bundle under his arm, accompanied by his own desultory narration of Thompson’s pungent first-person prose. In a bar he meets Fay Anderson (Rachel Ward), who tortures and tests him with her wit before taking him home.

She puts him to work as a handyman on the rambling estate, while both provoking and fending off their sensual attraction. In a country-western joint, the two are joined by a wily ex-detective (Bruce Dern), who immediately gets designs on Collie, as Fay calls him, as a partner in a kidnaping scheme. Kid gets sucked into it, but as he keeps telling Fay, he’s not stupid.

The detached point of view in this suspense thriller leaves audience as much twisted by doubt as Collie. One is never sure how much is certain, or what is really going on.

Ward is at her direct and provocative best as the lonely widow who can never give a straight answer, and Patric is enigmatic and affecting as the bruised drifter. Dern has his best role in years as the grasping con-man Uncle Bud, and actually evokes some sympathy for the weasely character.

Lensed in the arid and existential sun-blasted landscape of Indio, Calif, the pungently seedy film creates a kind of genre unto itself, a film soleil, perhaps.

After Dark, My Sweet

Production

Avenue. Director James Foley; Producer Robert Redlin, Ric Kidney; Writer Robert Redlin, James Foley; Camera Mark Plummer Editor Howard Smith; Music Maurice Jarre Art David Brisbin

Crew

(Color) Widescreen. Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1990. Running time: 114 MIN.

With

Jason Patric Rachel Ward Bruce Dern George Dickerson James Cotton Corey Carrier
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