Monday 21 May 2018

Movie Review: Color Of Night (1994)

A psychosexual suspense thriller, Color Of Night is a lurid mess.

New York psychiatrist Dr. Bill Capa (Bruce Willis) is shocked when one of his patients commits suicide. He relocates to Los Angeles to de-stress and reconnects with an old colleague, the vastly successful Dr. Bob Moore (Scott Bakula). Capa attends a group therapy session at Moore's office consisting of five disturbed patients: sex-obsessed Sondra (Lesley Ann Warren), obsessive-compulsive lawyer Clark (Brad Dourif), artist Casey (Kevin J. O'Connor), grieving widower Buck (Lance Henriksen) and the young Richie, who is suffering through a gender identity crisis.

Moore discloses that he has been receiving death threats, and one of the five patients is the likely suspect. Sure enough Moore is soon killed, and police Lieutenant Hector Martinez (Ruben Blades) asks Capa to take over the group sessions to try and identify the killer. Capa finds himself getting embroiled in the complex lives of the patients, and soon meets and starts a steamy relationship with the free spirited and mysterious Rose (Jane March).

Color Of Night is One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest with the inmates not only running the asylum but also writing the script, and suddenly all is forgiven if Nurse Ratched would only come back. Boasting a plot that can only be described as batshit crazy, the film is a bewildering mix of amateur psychiatry, salacious eroticism and slasher horror.

Produced by Andrew Vajna and directed by Richard Rush, Color Of Night ventures into a mishmash of psychological and societal topics in search of maximum shock value. The downstream impacts of child abuse, the trauma of losing loved ones, gender identity, a spectacular suicide, multiple personality disorder, murder most gory, superfluous sex and nudity, a case of infidelity linking a police officer with a surviving victim of crime, bondage imagery, obsessive compulsive behaviour, an irrelevant car chase and one attempted murder-by-car-drop are all somehow wedged into the same story.

And weaving yet another thread through the jumbled ball of psychobabble is Dr. Capa suffering from trauma-induced color-blindness, an inability to see red due to the New York suicide of his patient, a condition unlikely to be resolved by the upcoming events in Los Angeles.

It all sounds like fertile ground for bad Mel Brooks-style comedy, but there is not a hint of irony or wit to be found. Instead Color Of Night is delivered as a straight-up neo-noir, complete with mumbled intermittent narration by Dr. Capa, mostly to describe the wispy Rose every time she approaches him in various variations of not-there outfits. But to Rush's credit, he does manage to hold the outlandish plot together, and as far as the film strays away from credibility, it does adhere to a perverse logic of its own creation within all the sleazy-chic sets.

Bruce Willis cruises through the film with a general attitude of cool bemusement in what turned out out to be training grounds for a much better second outing into the world of helping troubled minds. Jane March follows up one almost-always-naked film with another, and here her performance alternates between cringe-worthy and not bad, her less flighty scenes carrying admirable intensity.

Color Of Night is bad enough to be enjoyed, a sordid exercise in excess that splatters into strangely compelling wreckage.

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  1. After Dr. Bob Moore is brutally murdered in his office, Dr. Bill Capa is somehow able to move into his dead friend’s house and take over his life. And nobody even notices? There also wasn’t any talk of a funeral for the late Dr. Moore, not to mention any family members who may have inherited his luxurious abode. It all went to Dr. Capa quite ludicrously.

    1. Yes, there is a lot about Color of Night that makes little sense!


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