Synopsis: A color-blind psychiatrist Bill Capa is stalked by an unknown killer after taking over his murdered friend’s therapy group, all of whom have a connection to a mysterious young woman that Capa begins having intense sexual encounters with.
Stars: Bruce Willis, Jane March, Lesley Ann Warren, Rubén Blades, Lance Henriksen, Scott Bakula
Director: Richard Rush
Rated: R (or Unrated)
Running Length: 139 minutes
TMMM Score: (2/10)
Review: A stunningly awful film, Color of Night is the much ballyhooed 1994 erotic thriller that ended several careers and put the kibosh on the psycho-sexual thrillers that Basic Instinct spawned. It’s a film I’ve seen maybe a half dozen times and it only gets worse with each viewing. Now with that being said, any true film aficionado should try this one on for size…while it hasn’t achieved cult/camp status it really does deserve it because there are some howling amazing performances and even funnier bits of dialogue.
Willis was on the A-list when this came about and while he walked away relatively unscathed Color of Night was an important turning point for the actor: he never dropped his trou for an erotic thriller after. I don’t think Willis is a bad actor, just a specific one. As bad as this material is, he takes the completely wrong angle to come at it from and winds up looking fairly idiotic in the process.
I have to admit I don’t know quite how to summarize the movie for you…it’s so convoluted I can’t even get at the true inadequacy of the proceedings. However, I’ll give it a go.
After a patient of his commits suicide during one of their sessions, Willis’ Bill Cappa suddenly becomes color blind to red and quits his practice. To get away from things he goes and visits his friend (Bakula) in California only to be tossed into a murder-mystery before the end of day 2. Bakula pretty much picks up Cappa from the airport and brings him to the therapy group he leads…and the group is filled with every cliché in the book. The nympho, the gruff ex police officer, the OCD yuppie, the immature artist, and the one with the gender problem. Oh yeah…one of them also is a killer as Bakula soon finds out.
The movie is awkward up until Bakula meets the end of a blade and after that it just becomes bizarre. Somehow information about the death doesn’t reach the patients so Willis (encouraged by the police to continue as the leader of the group) has to break it to them in one painfully bad/funny scene. Also…while the film continues on for several weeks there is no mention of a funeral or how Willis can legally continue to live in Bakula’s expansive mansion or drive his car! The filmmakers just assume that we will accept all these conveniences but we know better.
Now on top of all this enters the femme fatale in the form of March as a kitten-ish beauty that spells bad news for Cappa. March was hailed by director Rush as the “eighth wonder of the world” and unless he was referring to the fact that she never wears underwear or has eight extra teeth in her head, I can’t see why. Her acting is horrible and she seems only to exist to wear clothes that come off easily. She’s even more ridiculous as the film reveals more about her and expands her role in a few twists I shan’t give away.
The sex scenes between Willis and March were cause for much buzz because they earned the film an NC-17 at first…then trimmed to receive its eventual R. None of these scenes is erotic in the least though one gives credit to both actors for baring all in such a laugh riot as this. The film is available on DVD only in a director’s cut that clocks in at an astounding 139 minutes. The film could have and should have been 90 minutes including credits.
Supporting players should be as embarrassed as Willis and March. Warren probably fares the best as the nympho of the group…though it almost seems like an extension of her character from Clue. She’s the only one that seems to be trying to give the proceedings their due but eventually she’s forgotten as are the rest of the group members. Worst performance is a close call between March and Blades as an un-PC and nearly unwatchable cop. I can’t imagine Blades looking back fondly on what he did on this film – it’s a pretty embarrassing role.
Director Rush directed the cult favorite The Stunt Man and his attempts to make this film with style falls flat because he’s missing the essential element for most films – taste. The taste factor of this one is incredibly low and he never seems to understand that. Camera angles that make no sense are used and filming techniques that maybe looked good in dailies look patently absurd here. Add to that the dreadful score that sounds like a church mouse on a circus organ and there’s just no way to escape this movie without hitting the eject button.
So yes…this is bad but yes…if you have the time and fortitude to check this one out it’s nearly worth it because it is so uniquely awful. A year later Showgirls would arrive on the scene and demonstrate how to make a bad movie that’s totally watchable. Scaling Color of Night is a feat…but there are much worse mountains to climb.