Sunday 7 January 2024

Movie Review: Pacific Heights (1990)

Genre: Thriller  
Director: John Schlesinger  
Starring: Melanie Griffith, Matthew Modine, Michael Keaton  
Running Time: 102 minutes  

Synopsis: In San Francisco, couple Patty and Drake (Melanie Griffith and Matthew Modine) buy an expensive Victorian house, counting on rent income from two ground-level apartments to afford the mortgage. Con artist Carter Hayes (Michael Keaton) fast-talks his way into one of the units without paying a deposit. Patty and Drake are plunged into a financial hole and a living nightmare, unable to get rid of a delinquent tenant now responsible for loud hammering and a cockroach infestation. They turn to a lawyer (Laurie Metcalf) for help, but Carter is also an expert at manipulating tenancy laws to his advantage.

What Works Well: This competent and compact landlord cautionary tale enjoys high production values, moments of mild suspense, a menacing Michael Keaton as an antagonist thinking five steps ahead, and in the opposite corner, a grounded Melanie Griffith. Director John Schlesinger and writer Daniel Pyne expertly allow all the walls (financial, emotional, and physical) to close-in on Patty and Drake, while the cockroaches make for effective co-stars.

What Does Not Work As Well: Matthew Modine is saddled with a character who picks the worst option at every opportunity. Carter's backstory remains blurry, and a gaggle of tertiary characters (including none other than Tippi Hedren, Melanie Griffith's mom) make late appearances to little effect. Carter's malevolent acts are a really convoluted means to a living for a supposedly wickedly intelligent man.

Conclusion: Don't skip any steps when selecting a tenant.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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