Review: ‘Traces of Red’

Unintentional laughs and goofy plot twists make "Traces of Red" a dramatic failure but an entertaining exercise in camp. In the currently hot erotic thriller genre it should be a strong video title but is miscast as far as the theatrical marketplace is concerned.

Unintentional laughs and goofy plot twists make “Traces of Red” a dramatic failure but an entertaining exercise in camp. In the currently hot erotic thriller genre it should be a strong video title but is miscast as far as the theatrical marketplace is concerned.

James Belushi brings his usual man-of-the-people persona to a role that should have been a bit more uppercrust: a cop whose brother (William Russ) is running in Palm Beach, Fla., for the Senate.

Belushi is assigned to a murder case and before long all of the principal characters (himself and his brother included) are key suspects in the serial slayings of prostitutes and B girls. With a nod to genre films like “Body Heat” (which also shared an atmospheric southern Florida setting), “Traces of Red” initially holds the interest in a whodunnit mode. Unfortunately, scripter Jim Piddock throws out all concern for character consistency in his desire to keep the pot boiling, so film becomes terminally silly.

Originally titled “Beyond Suspicion,” pic includes so many red herrings in its attempt to make every Palm Beach denizen a suspect one fears that Teddy Kennedy will eventually be dragged in as the killer. In particular, Lorraine Bracco, playing her femme fatale as a wannabe Melanie Griffith (right down to the voice), does many things for no reason except to make the audience wonder about her.

A skeleton in the family closet proves to be the key to the unraveling of the mystery that includes one satisfying though phony twist at the very end. To throw film buffs off the track, Belushi narrates the whole film as a corpse, a successfully misleading homage to Billy Wilder’s classic “Sunset Boulevard” format.

Belushi has the edge to create a film noir anti-hero but hardly the sex appeal to follow in Michael Douglas’s or William Hurt’s genre footsteps. As his sidekick and adviser (an expanded version of the Ted Danson role in “Body Heat”) , Tony Goldwyn suffers from the lack of script logic.

Tech credits are okay but on the cheap side, minus the shadow play and lighting stylization a true film noir requires.

Traces of Red

Production

A Samuel Goldwyn Co. release. Executive producer, David V. Picker. Produced by Mark Gordon. Directed by Andy Wolk. Screenplay, Jim Piddock.

Crew

Camera (Deluxe color), Timothy Suhrstedt; editor, Trudy Ship; music, Graeme Revell; sound (Dolby), Steve C. Aaron; production design, Dan Bishop, Dianna Freas; art direction, Richard Fojo; set decoration, Nancy Sivitz; costume design, Hilary Rosenfeld; assistant director, David Sardi; production manager, Tom Luse; additional camera, Don Burgess; casting, Pam Dixon, Ellen Jacoby (Florida). Reviewed at Gramercy theater, N.Y., Oct. 27, 1992. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 104 min.

With

Jack Dobson - James Belushi
Ellen Schofield - Lorraine Bracco
Steve Frayn - Tony Goldwyn
Michael Dobson - William Russ
Beth Frayn - Faye Grant
Morgan Cassidy - Michelle Joyner
Lt. Hooks - Joe Lisi
Susan Dobson - Victoria Bass
Amanda - Melanie Tomlin
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