Tag Archives: C. Thomas Howell

Red Dawn (1984) 3/5 (1)


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Rating: The Good – 66.8
Genre: Action
Duration: 114 mins
Director: John Milius
Stars: Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson

John Milius’ uneven film has been criticised for being jingoistic and yes, there are some grounds for such criticism. There are also some spectaular leaps of logic and Harry Dean Stanton screams “Avenge me boys” without even a hint of humour. However, for the most part Red Dawn is actually a well orchestrated and even epic depiction of a fictitious invasion of the 1980’s United States by communist forces. Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen play two brothers who take to the mountains and form a rag-tag resistance behind enemy lines. It shouldn’t work but somehow this becomes an entertaining and sometimes touching examination of how life could’ve changed in such circumstances. Swayze and Sheen are charismatic in the lead roles and are supported by a number of young and, at the time, promising actors one of whom being Swayze’s future Dirty Dancing co-star Jennifer Grey. Milius’ and Kevin Reynolds’ screenplay can get clunky in parts but holds up for the majority of the film and there are some decent action scenes throughout.

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The Outsiders (1983) 3.14/5 (4)


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Rating: The Good – 64.3
Genre:Drama, Crime
Duration: 91 mins
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Stars: C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Tom Cruise

Francis Ford Coppola’s uneven adaptation of S.E. Hinton’s novel The Outsiders features a host of household names albeit before they hit their prime. Matt Dillon, Estevez, Swayze, Lowe, Macchio, Howell, and Cruise play the “Greasers” from the wrong side of the tracks who are locked in class warfare with the wealthier more privileged “Socs”. The intentions were right and there are some nice glimpses of the great Coppola (check out those Godfather-like close-ups of Estevez’ feet changing direction and pace to indicate danger) but they are all too fleeting as this film runs away from him and its two main leads (Howell and Macchio) towards the end of second act. Worth sticking with it for the great rumble scene at the end though.

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The Hitcher (1986) 4/5 (3)


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Rating: The Good – 76.8
Genre: Thriller, Action
Duration: 97 mins
Director: Robert Harmon
Stars: Rutger Hauer, C. Thomas Howell, Jennifer Jason Leigh

The Hitcher is a dreamlike thriller in which a young man (C. Thomas Howell) narrowly escapes a homicidal hitchhiker (Rutger Hauer) only to become the target of his relentless pursuit. However, rather than mindlessly attempting to kill Howell’s naive motorist in the mode of your typical slasher movie, Hauer’s nightmarish incarnation engages him in a series of mind games which slowly take their toll on the younger man’s sanity. Writer Eric Red and director Robert Harmon make things even more unpredictable by imbuing Hauer’s hitcher with a supernatural-like quality which like all the best cinematic chillers is left unexplained rather than probed, stretched, and exposed.

Such a premise has “cult classic” written all over it and therefore, it’s no surprise that this one has a strong niche value which mainstream fans have traditionally balked at. There’s an unorthodox yet focused commitment to character, not quite at the expense of the story but to the point where the story is appropriated by personality arcs that are much more long-term than those to which the story’s short time-frame would ostensibly cater. This lends itself to a more profound undercurrent of thought that runs through the scenes involving Howell and Hauer together and comes to define the film as a whole.

Of course, all of the above is primarily achieved through Red’s superb screenplay which, though relatively lean in dialogue, manages to lift the unfolding drama above the narrative so that everything feels just barely reachable. It’s really quite impressive and no fluke as he did the same thing the following year in the magnificent Near Dark. Also, as was the case in that film, the actors revel in their less conventional roles, embracing Red’s skewed approach to character building. Howell who was never a great actor, puts in one of his more substantial turns as the terrorised young man and Jennifer Jason Leigh’s presence smooths out any rough edges his few inevitable missteps create. Naturally, in a film like this, Hauer is in his element and he uses every bit of the freedom the script provides to improvise one of the more memorable screen psychopaths. With very little dialogue, his presence hovers in the background when he’s not on screen and dominates the background, foreground, and everywhere else when he is. It’s not a frantic performance like most movie madmen, far from it, and this is what makes it so interesting and compelling.

Importantly, director Robert Harmon is completely in sync with the script and does every word of it justice. In addition, he treats us to some breath-taking action, most of which takes place on the open roads and John Seale’s cinematography captures it perfectly. All in all, The Hitcher is a unique movie experience and one you may find yourself revisiting time and time again.

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