The Eighties Club
The Politics and Pop Culture of the 1980s
Movie Reviews - N, O
The New Kids
1985, Columbia, Rated R

Shannon Presby
Lori Loughlin
James Spader

Directed by Sean S. Cunningham
Written by
Stephen Gyllenhaal & Brian Taggert

Loren (Shannon Presby) and Abby (Lori Loughlin) are a pair of Army brats taken in by their Florida-based uncle after the deaths of their parents, only to be targeted by a gang of young thugs led by the sadistic Eddie Dutra (James Spader). Spurned by Abby, Dutra embarks on a campaign of vandalism, arson, and, finally, attempted murder that leads to a deadly confrontation with Loren and his sister in a carnival midway.
In The New Kids, Sean Cunningham, director and producer of  the 1980 cult classic Friday the 13th, concocts a low-rent, combination Eighties teen flick and slasher/horror film  -- and manages to inflict upon viewers the worst elements of both genres. Friday the 13th worked because it was a campy scarefest; The New Kids is sleazy and lacks suspense.  Every character is your typical stereotype; Dutra and his cronies represent a typically Hollywood -- and particularly vile -- stereotype of the Southern redneck: ignorant, gun-totin' chauvinists who sneer at the law and defile all that's good and decent. Even the protagonists -- Loren and Abby -- are so poorly realized that you find yourself indifferent to their fate. Of course, Cunningham did not aspire to create anything more than 90 excruciatingly-long minutes of violence, senseless gore and blatant exploitation -- and in this he succeeded. The not-inconsiderable talents of Spader and Eric Stoltz, who plays Abby's love interest (a grossly under-utilized character), are completely wasted. As for the lead actors, this film did irreparable damage to Loughlin's big screen career, and Presby was not heard from again.

Eighties Club rating: *

US release date: 4.28.85

"Stand Up," Bill Wray
& 3 more

Night Shift
1982, Ladd, Rated R

Henry Winkler
Michael Keaton
Shelley Long

Directed by Ron Howard
 Written by
Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel

In 1982, the long-running TV sitcom Happy Days was on its last legs. Ron Howard had left the show, though Henry Winkler ("Fonz") was sticking it out to the bitter end. The 28-year-old Howard pegged Winkler to star in this modestly budgeted comedy film as Chuck Lumley, a meek, conservative morgue attendant who works the night shift with an off-the-wall assistant by the name of Bill Blazejowski (Michael Keaton). Chuck has fashioned for himself a neat, orderly and drab existence, which includes avoiding confrontation at all costs. Bill, on the other hand, is a flamboyant, outgoing "ideas man" -- and one of his ideas is to start a call-girl ring based at the morgue after Chuck befriends neighbor Belinda (Shelley Long), a prostitute who has lost her pimp. Being the all-around nice guy that he is, Chuck is concerned for the safety of the prostitutes, and even offers the girls he and Bill "manage" a pension plan and dental coverage. Naturally, complications arise.  A couple of violence-prone pimps don't take kindly to Chuck and Bill invading their turf. And Chuck falls in love with Belinda -- even though he's engaged to another woman, and in spite of the fact that Belinda won't stop turning tricks.
Penned by Babaloo Mandel and Lowell Ganz (the latter a writer for yet another successful TV sitcom, Laverne and Shirley) this film's concept was rather unseemly -- a prostitution ring run out of a city morgue -- but the script is first-rate and funny and the lead characters are endearing. Winkler's hangdog and long-suffering Chuck is a perfect foil for Keaton's manic and delinquent Bill, while Long strikes the right balance between street-wise and vulnerable. Howard's direction is workmanlike, and he avoids sermonizing, playing it strictly for laughs -- of which there are plenty. In a sense, Night Shift delightfully protrays early Eighties entrepreneurship of the anything-goes variety; it's worth noting that a year later Tom Cruise would star as a preppy version of Bill Blazejowski, going into business with prostitute Rebecca Mornay in the hit flick Risky Business. Trivia buffs might want to keep an eye out for Kevin Costner in the morgue party scene.

Eighties Club rating: ***

US box office: $23.6 million
US release date: 7.30.82

"Night Shift," Quarterflash
"Girls Know How," Al Jarreau
"Talk Talk," Talk Talk
"That's What Friends Are For"
Rod Stewart

No Mercy
1986, Tri-Star, Rated R

Richere Gere
Kim Basinger
Jeroen Krabbe

Directed by Richard Pearce
Written by James Carabatsos

After watching the first fifteen minutes of No Mercy, the viewer's first instinct will probably be to dismiss the film as just another routine cop thriller. The plot is an old standard: Eddie Jillette, maverick Chicago cop, heads for exotic New Orleans to track down the criminal who murdered his buddy. Jillette's only lead is a beautiful blonde named Michel (Kim Basinger), whose striking blue parrot tattoo is the least of her attributes. The tattoo is the clue that allows Jillette to find Michel; handcuffed together, they flee the villain, Losado (Jeroen Krabbe), pursued through the dingy, dangerous streets of Algiers and the gator-infested blackwater of the Louisiana swamps. Jillette's initial impression of Michel -- that she's just a hooker partly responsible for his partner's death -- gradually gives way to sympathy when he finds out she was "sold" to Losado by her mother (the parrot tattoo is Losado's mark of ownership), and eventually to love. But Jillette never loses sight of his mission, and he takes on Losado and his goon platoon in a bloodbath finale.
Midway through the film you are likely to become aware of several things that, taken together, lift No Mercy above mediocrity. Prior to this movie, Kim Basinger was best known for playing Domino in the Sean Connery "Bond film" Never Say Never Again (1983). In that movie, as in this one, she portrayed the plaything of a powerful and evil man. But as Michel she has a lot more to work with, and crafts a believable and sympathetic character. Being perhaps the most beautiful actress in Hollywood was a curse for Basinger; it tended to obscure the fact that she is a very competent actress, and she demonstrates that competence in No Mercy. Even Streep could not have done a better job in the scene where Michel tells Jillette how she came to be Losado's mistress. Another plus is a sultry score enhanced by the efforts of Michael McDonald, Junior Walker and Mighty Joe Young. And then there's the finale, scorned by some, but which is strikingly reminiscent of the explosive action scenes Sam Peckinpah orchestrated in classics like The (original) Getaway and The Wild Bunch. Add to all of this another intense performance by Gere, and you have an action thriller that is something more than routine, after all.

Eighties Club rating: ***

US box office: $12.3 million
US release date: 12.19.86

No Way Out
1987, Orion, Rated R

Kevin Costner
Gene Hackman
Sean Young

Directed by Roger Donelson
Written by Robert Garland from a novel by Richard Fearing

Fresh from his star-making performance in The Untouchables, Kevin Costner secured his niche in Hollywood with this taut spy thriller. Costner stars as Lt. Commander Tom Farrell, who is chosen to serve the Secretary of Defense, David Brice (Gene Hackman) as liaison to the intelligence community. Things get a little complicated when Farrell falls in love with the beautiful Susan Atwell (Sean Young, of Blade Runner fame), who happens to be Brice's mistress. Thet get a lot more complicated when, upon discovering that Susan is seeing another man, Brice accidentally kills her in a fit of blind rage. His obsessively loyal assistant, Scott Pritchard (Will Patton), concocts a cover-up -- Susan's murder will be blamed on the legendary Soviet spy, Yuri, who (so the legend goes) has been working as a mole in the Pentagon for years. Ironically, Farrell is placed in charge of the investigation, an investigation that uncovers one piece of evidence after another that points to him. Farrell realizes that his only hope is to prove that Brice committed the murder. It's a race against time -- as the net quickly begins to close in on Farrell.
With its intelligent script, crisp direction by Roger Donaldson, and above-average acting (especially by Patton, who steals the show as Pritchard, who is willing to go to any lengths to protect the man he idolizes), No Way Out is arguably the best film of its genre made in the 1980s. And the plot twist at the end is an absolute winner. Costner isn't a great dramatic actor, but he's good-looking, charismatic, and the camera loves him, which makes him perfect material for an action flick. He would go on to even greater things in the Eighties --  Bull Durham and Field of Dreams. Overshadowed in The Untouchables by Sean Connery and Robert DeNiro, he holds his own this time in scenes with another master, Gene Hackman who, as always, is first-rate. Sean Young is given a rare opportunity to prove she's more than just a pretty face, and takes full advantage of the opportunity. No Way Out is superior to most thrillers because the script and the performances give us fully-realized and complex characters. And it doesn't insult the viewer's intelligence. In fact, you'll be mesmerized by the increasingly complicated plot as the film rockets to its stunning, edge-of-your-seat conclusion.

Eighties Club rating: ***

US box office: $35.5 million
US release date: 8.14.87

"Say It," Paul Anka
"No Way Out," Paul Anka & Julia Migenes
"Do Ya Think I'm Sexy," Rod Stewart
(& more)

Nothing In Common
1986, HBO/Cannon, Rated PG

Tom Hanks
Jackie Gleason
Sela Ward

Directed by Garry Marshall
Written by Rick Podell & Michael Preminger

David Basner (Tom Hanks) is a hotshot ad-man at the top of his game -- he's young, glib, charming, a real go-getter who succeeds in business as well as in bed. He is, in short, the perfect yuppie with a bright future. But then his parents, Max and Lorraine (Jackie Gleason and Eva Marie Saint) split up after 30-plus years of marriage, and David is dragged, kicking and screaming, into the middle of the crisis just when he needs to focus all his attention on acquiring a huge new account for his advertising firm, not to mention pursuing a romance with Cheryl Ann Wayne (Sela Ward), a sexy, glamorous executive with the airline David is trying to woo with a great new ad concept. Max is David's biggest headache; his cantankerous father has lost his job and his health -- in fact, untreated diabetes is threatening his life. David never felt he had anything in common with his father, and couldn't wait to leave home and strike out on his own. He certainly has no desire to take on the responsibility of caring for his aging parents. But gradually David comes to the realization that, in truth, he and his father are a lot alike; in his time, Max was a self-absorbed hotshot salesman just like his son is now, and ignored his family in the pursuit of the almighty dollar.
Tom Hanks had already proven himself a comedy film star with great potential in movies like Splash (1984), Bachelor Party (1984) and The Money Pit (1986), and the first half of Nothing In Common is a non-stop Hanks jokefest. Suddenly, though, the film shifts gears, and takes a serious look at what the concept of family does -- and does not -- mean. For the first time in his film career, Hanks reveals the dramatic depth that would garner him Academy Awards in years to come, while Jackie Gleason, in his last role, proved why he was one of the masters. This is at times a heartwarming film, and at other times downright depressing. But it is also very schizophrenic; one of David's coworkers laments halfway through that she misses his jokes -- and so will the viewer. Director Gerry Marshall, creator of hit TV sitcoms like The Odd Couple, Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley, has no trouble with the funny half of this movie, but his uncertainty in how to deliver dramatic punch in the second half is all too obvious. The switch from sophisticated comedy to dreary tragedy was, we suppose, intended to underline the fundamental change in David Basner's life, but it turns out to be unsettling -- kind of like life can be, sometimes.

Eighties Club rating: **

US box office: $32.3 million
US release date: 7.30.86

"Nothing In Common," Thompson Twins
"Loving Strangers," Christopher Cross

Off Beat
1986, Touchstone, Rated PG

Judge Reinhold
Meg Tilly
Cleavant Derricks

Directed by Michael Dinner
Written by Mark Medoff from a story by Dezso Magyar

Meet Joe Gower (Judge Reinhold), just an average guy who may be a little too easy-going for his own good. He's stuck in a nowhere job at the New York Public Library. He's just broken up with his girlfriend. And he breezily disrupts an undercover operation when he recognizes a good friend, police officer  Abe Washington (Cleavant Derricks), on the street. To make up for that mistake, he agrees to attend a dance audition for a police department charity performance in Washington's place. Gower figures there's no harm in impersonating a police officer just this once, and fully intends to flunk the audition -- until he lays eyes on a female cop, Rachel Wareham (Meg Tilly.) Instead of flunking, he becomes Rachel's dance partner, and a featured performer in the show. He also has to take his cop impersonation to the streets because he's afraid to tell Rachel the truth. And that gets him into real hot water when he blunders right into a bank robbery.
Reinhold had gotten his big break in 1985's Beverly Hills Cop, and would go on to excel as a bungling kidnapper in Ruthless People (1987). In 1988 he would prove he could carry a film on his own with Vice Versa. His likeable, sometimes goofy, on-screen persona appealed to moviegoers. But in Off Beat, Reinhold is sabotaged by material that is entirely too goofy to swallow. The dance sequences are almost too embarrassing to watch, and the climax, with Gower getting the better of a couple of amazingly inept bank robbers, is a bit too far fetched even for screwball comedy. No sparks fly between Reinhold and Tilly (who had every right to wait for a better project with an Academy Award nomination for Agnes of God under her belt.) Fine performances in small parts by Joe Mantegna, Fred Gwynne and John Turturro can't salvage the film, directed by Michael Dinner (who would lay another egg with 1988's Hot to Trot.) Only diehard Reinhold fans need to endure the whole 92 minutes.

Eighties Club rating: **

US box office: $4.8 million
US release date: 4.7.86

"Copacabana," Barry Manilow
"Georgia On My Mind," Ray Charles
"Down On The Corner," John Fogerty
"Pleasure & Pain," Divinyls
(& more)

Out of Bounds
1986, Columbia, Rated R

Anthony Michael Hall
Jenny Wright
Jeff Kober

Directed by Richard Tuggle
Written by Tony Kayden

As action films go, this one is standard stuff. Daryl Cage (Anthony Michael Hall) is an Iowa farmboy who goes to L.A. to live with his brother after his folks split up and the family farm is sold. At the airport his brother picks up the wrong bag at the baggage carousel. And is it ever the wrong bag! This one contains ten keys of heroin. The drug smuggler (Jeff Kober) arrives just in time to see our hero departing with the goods. The drug smuggler finds Daryl's brother's house, kills the brother and his wife, but can't find Daryl or the drugs because (get this) both happen to be safely ensconced in a guest house disguised as a hedge. The cops, of course, think Daryl killed his brother. Daryl talks a girl named Dizz (Jenny Wright), whom he met on the flight out to L.A., into giving him a hand in dodging the police -- and the drug smuggler. Oh, and throw in a couple of dirty cops from New Orleans, and the chase is on through the mean streets and punk-rocker hangouts of the City of Angels.
Director Richard Tuggle was responsible for an above-average Clint Eastwood thriller called Tightrope in 1984, and he manages to keep the action in Out of Bounds coming at a pretty rapid pace -- but, unfortunately, not rapid enough to disguise the fact that the story is about as contrived as they get. It's truly amazing how often the five or six principal players in this drama manage to run into each other in a big city like L.A. And Tony Kayden should be ashamed for writing such hokey dialogue. Anthony Michael Hall, a standout as The Geek in Sixteen Candles (1984) who went on to do good work in The Breakfast Club (1985) and Weird Science (1985), apparently took a few classes at the Mickey Rourke school of acting; he struts and mumbles his way through this film but, unlike Rourke would have, does it in a thoroughly unconvincing manner. Still, the action sequences aren't bad, and the soundtrack, benefiting from contributions by the likes of The Smiths, The Cure and Stewart Copeland, is pretty good, so Out of Bounds is not a total loss. Trivia buffs, try to stay alert and spot Bill Press, star of CNN's Crossfire and Spin Room as a news reporter.

Eighties Club rating: **

US box office:$5.1 million
US release date: 7.25.86

"Out of Bounds"
Stewart Copeland & Adam Ant
"Wild & Innocent Youth," Night Ranger
"Shot In The Dark," Belinda Carlisle
"How Soon Is Now?" The Smiths
"Electric Ocean," The Cult
"Burnin' Down The City"
Sammy Hagar
"Cities In Dust"
Siouxsie & The Banshees
(& more)