“Caught” is a contemporary film noir with plenty of sexual melodrama but little sense of style. Veteran indie director Robert M. Young works a number of interesting wrinkles into the familiar, “Postman Always Rings Twice” married couple-younger man triangle and has drawn fine performances from his leading actors. But the aftermath to the startling climax takes a lot of wind out of its sails, making for a disappointed feeling at fadeout. Commercial prospects are iffy.
Although Young generally has dealt with more overtly topical and socially conscious material in the past, a strong sense of economic imperatives and the working life nonetheless informs this slowly simmering tale.
Joe and Betty (Edward James Olmos, Maria Conchita Alonso) have long run a successful neighborhood fish shop in Jersey City. With their only son, Danny (Steven Schub), away in Hollywood chasing his showbiz dream, the pair have their routine interrupted by the arrival off the streets of Nick (Arie Verveen), a rugged Irish vagabond whom Betty rather abruptly invites to stay in Danny’s former room upstairs.
Joe agrees to the arrangement because he could use some help in the shop, and Nick turns out to be an adept student, quickly learning the ropes of the early morning visits to the Fulton Fish Market and becoming skillful at boning shad.
Although Joe doesn’t suspect a thing, there is no doubt from the outset that there is something else at which Nick will prove skillful. So the question quickly centers upon what variations Young and screenwriter Edward Pomerantz, adapting his own novel, will introduce into the young stud-eager neglected wife scenario.
The answer comes with the surprise arrival from L.A. of Danny, along with his wife, Amy (Bitty Schram), and young son. Startled to find a young man roughly his own age having taken his place in the household, Danny becomes suspicious almost at once.
A showbiz monster of the first order, forever cracking jokes witha sinister edge and obnoxiously provoking situations with his hyperactivity, Danny sets his family up in lodgings elsewhere, but soon gets it in his head that Nick may not only be sleeping with his mother but with his wife as well.
With ample emotional crosscurrents and conflicts thus in place, the film turns its attention back to Joe as he is faced with the decision of whether to sell his shop, at tremendous profit, to a Donald Trump-like developer. Initially opposed to the idea on principle, Joe slowly weakens in the face of his wife’s insistence and the potential that $ 1 million offers to realizing his dream of moving to Florida and running a fleet of deluxe fishing boats.
Danny’s manipulations finally force the deceptions and bitter truths out onto the table, triggering a traumatic incident that changes everything for everyone involved. But the moment is not followed up in the manner indicated by the film’s previous close scrutiny of emotional cause-and-effect; Young strangely chooses to concentrate instead on one character’s morose wanderings before serving up another violent jolt and a melancholy coda.
Performances are very sharp, with Olmos outstanding in conveying his character’s awareness that in body and spirit, he’s not entirely the man he used to be, a key reason he won’t put himself at risk by even imagining there could be something untoward going on under his roof. Alonso couldn’t be better as the middle-aged wife who still has the looks and desires for excitement of a 30 -year-old.
One of the film’s little jokes is to counter the hot-blooded Latino cliche by having the low-energy Hispanic husband cuckolded by a virile Irishman, and newcomer Verveen is low-key but convincing in the latter part. Schub is scary as the skittish, confrontational son.
Unfortunately, the action has been staged and lensed in very elementary fashion, with a heavy dependence on TV-style closeups shot in distinctly unatmospheric fashion and joined by inelegant cutting. In an era of conspicuous craftsmanship, especially in the neo-noir field, pic is way short on style, although jazzy music by Chris Botti is a plus.