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Light Sleeper

Paul Schrader has created a pointed companion piece to his earlier portraits of lonely outcasts (Taxi Driver, American Gigolo). Contemplative and violent by turns, this quasi-thriller about a long-time drug dealer leaving the business has a great deal to recommend it but could have been significantly better had Schrader done some fresh plotting and not relied on his standby gunplay to resolve issues.

Paul Schrader has created a pointed companion piece to his earlier portraits of lonely outcasts (Taxi Driver, American Gigolo). Contemplative and violent by turns, this quasi-thriller about a long-time drug dealer leaving the business has a great deal to recommend it but could have been significantly better had Schrader done some fresh plotting and not relied on his standby gunplay to resolve issues.

A former heavy user himself, LeTour (Willem Dafoe) has long worked as a drug delivery boy for Ann (Susan Sarandon), who sees the handwriting on the wall and gives up the coke trade for cosmetics. With four months to go before Ann packs it in, LeTour continues to drop off packets to characters who look like pathetic 1980s throwbacks.

He runs into the love of his life, Marianne (Dana Delaney), who has gone clean with difficulty and now wants nothing to do with him. When Marianne slips off the wagon to an untimely demise, script becomes more melodramatic.

A superb Dafoe contributes crucially to the degree of success the film achieves. In two bracing and amusing scenes he goes to a psychic (Mary Beth Hurt) to try to see into the future. Sarandon’s role is a bit archly written, but she’s lively and quick-witted as usual. Delaney is rather bland as the old flame. Better is Jane Adams as her sympathetic sister.

Light Sleeper

  • Production: Seven Arts. Director Paul Schrader; Producer Linda Reisman; Screenplay Paul Schrader; Camera Ed Lachman; Editor Kristina Boden; Music Michael Been; Art Director Richard Hornung
  • Crew: (Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1992. Running time: 100 MIN.
  • With: Willem Dafoe Susan Sarandon Dana Delaney David Clennon Mary Beth Hurt Victor Garber