Tag Archives: Louis Gossett Jr.

Enemy Mine (1985) 3.14/5 (1)

 

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Rating: The Ugly – 67.5
Genre: Science Fiction
Duration: 108 mins
Director: Wolfgang Peterson
Stars: Dennis Quaid, Louis Gossett Jr., Brion James

“Hell in the Pacific” retold in sci-fi mode with Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett Jr. starring as two enemies stranded on the same planet. Quaid is the human fighter pilot and Gossett is the alien “Drac” who, after an initial period of hostility, begin to work together and ultimately form a bond of friendship. Enemy Mine is one of those enjoyable movies which many of us grew up on and were happy to do so. It came from an era in science fiction writing when good old fashioned story telling was at the heart of the genre and, as a result, the movie works despite some minor issues. The two leads seemed to be having great fun working together and it pays off well given the nature of the story. Quaid was always charismatic and solid in these types of roles while an unrecognisable Gossett (thanks to some excellent make-up) gives a considered and nuanced performance.

This was a troubled production and director Wolfgang Peterson only came on board after much of the movie was shot and, depending on which story you listen to, the exteriors were shot in either Iceland (where much of the initial production was based) or Germany (where Peterson based himself). However, anyone remotely familiar with the raft of sci-fi movies shot in Iceland (Prometheus being the most recent example) will recognise the unique sci-fi friendly Icelandic landscape in many of the scenes, which combined with the top notch matte painting to bring the alien planet to life quite majestically. On the negative side, the sets are less impressive and come across as something form a Star Trek episode. Throw in some childishly conceived alien creatures and parts of the movie definitely become a little kitschy. The ending is terribly rushed and the abrupt change in pace affects the tone of the movie and destabilises much of the acting (in particular Quaid’s) significantly. There’s some gory action thrown in at the end but it’s somewhat unsatisfying given the quality of the opening 90 minutes. Ultimately, however, the movie still works thanks chiefly to the chemistry between the leads and the easy often light-hearted script.

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The Laughing Policeman (1973) 3.43/5 (1)

 

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Rating: The Good – 76.5
Genre: Crime, Thriller
Duration: 112 mins
Director: Stuart Rosenberg
Stars: Walter Matthau, Bruce Dern, Louis Gossett Jr.

From the heyday of gritty crime cinema comes this forgotten gem full of slow burning tension and ambiguous sentiment. Water Matthau stars as a disenchanted San Francisco inspector, Sgt. Jake Martin, whose investigation into a multiple homicide on a city bus is made all the more complicated with the discovery of his off duty partner amongst the bodies. As Martin begins retracing his partner’s steps, he must contend with a brash new partner in the form of Bruce Dern, sleazy informants, a crazy city, not to mention an estranged family at home.

The Laughing Policeman attempts a rare blend of crime and introspective drama but director Stuart Rosenberg and writer Thomas Rickman just about pull it off albeit in a very unorthodox manner. The movie phases between the gritty realism of the edgier crime thrillers from the 1970’s and the more experimental dramas of the late 60’s. In fact, it walks a similar line to Bullitt but whereas Peter Yates’ film only coated the thriller element in contemplative drama, Rosenberg’s film steeps it in it. Thus, in between some rather impressive action set pieces like the bus shooting itself, the audience is made privy to the eroding disharmony in Martin’s life by showing us his forced and awkward conversations with his wife and his attempts to be a father to his son. This might make the film less accessible to those who respond best to the crime elements and there’s no denying that the tension generated by that side to the story is let slip from time to time as Rosenberg indulges the more abstract side. However, there’s equally no denying that it makes for some very original and peculiarly engaging cinema.

For his part, Walter Matthau gives us a character whose complex relationship with his partner echoes that of Spade and Archer’s and whose personal life is just as complicated. It’s a rich characterisation bravely written and insightfully acted as Matthau demonstrates yet again a level of intuition and maturity of understanding that few of his peers did. As his partner’s cocksure replacement, Bruce Dern is just terrific, full of attitude and abrasiveness and for a guy who specialised in constructing one intriguing character after another throughout the 1970s and 80s, it’s no small thing to say that this is one of the most intriguing. In fact, given the necessarily subdued turn of Matthau, one could easily argue this becomes his movie as he’s given most of the memorable lines and delivers them with oodles of sarcastic charisma.

What’s most impressive about this film, however, is that all this moody drama plays out against a flat realism that was decades ahead of its time, where the procedural tones of the police work become as important to the film as the plot. The sequences in which the protagonists (including Louis Gossett Jr.’s hard as nails/cool as ice fellow cop) are going about their investigations by interviewing stoolies, harassing pimps, and generally putting the pieces of the puzzle together are deliciously executed and shot with all the murky grace of the best neo-noirs. Moreover, they help authenticate the more subjective moments all the more and thus provide a valuable grounding for the movie. However, given the decision to favour a real depiction of police work over a dramatic one, the investigative sequences and even the larger scale set pieces only ever seem to nudge the plot forward – the point being that the majority of police work leads nowhere helpful. This adds to the realism but it gives the film a meandering quality that won’t suit everyone.

Nonetheless, The Laughing Policeman remains a unique slice of 70’s cinema that deserves a lot more attention than it has received even if it was only for the tremendous turns from Matthau and Dern. However, the rewards it offers are much richer thanks to the brave approach of Rosenberg and the delicate balancing act between reality and drama he performs.


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