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1 review, 1 rating

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Boost, The
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by Jack Sommersby

"You'll Need a 'Boost' to Stay Awake"
2 stars

One of those pictures that offers not an iota of surprise but some interesting performances that makes it not a total lost cause.

Sometimes the volatile, enormously talented James Woods stars in movies worthy of his efforts (Videodrome, Once Upon a Time in America, True Believer), sometimes not (Against All Odds, Joshua Then and Now, Best Seller). In the case of the drug-addiction drama The Boost, he's typically superb and, unfortunately, far better than the material, with its familiarity particularly apparent with its release coming just a few months after the superb Michael Keaton drug-addiction drama Clean and Sober. Granted, Woods is anything but a box-office draw, and he wants to be working, sure, but wasn't there a juicy supporting role in a good script he could've opted for instead? Starring as freelance Manhattan salesman Lenny Brown, a man with only a high-school education but the sheer confidence and tenacity of twenty men, Woods brings the necessary energy to the part (though it's a bit of a rehash of a similar character he played in the early sections of the Emmy-award-winning My Name is Bill W.), and in Sean Young, who plays Lenny's devoted paralegal-employed wife Linda, he has a co-star who manages to hold her own with him. Linda is content with both Lenny and their economic status, but Lenny feels he's undeserving of her and is obligated to lavish her with wealth -- the more he tries to do more for her, the more frustrated she becomes. Luck finally comes Lenny's way when he applies for a corporate sales position: not because he gets the job (his grandiose vision for the possibilities of the company's projects scares the board off), but that he impresses the one person in the room, Max Sherman (a superb Steven Hill), who also has an office in Los Angeles where he knows Lenny's take-charge self will prosper. Soon Lenny and Linda are flown out to California, put up in a luxury home, and provided a leased Mercedes. As Max knows he would, Lenny is an absolute ace at selling high-dollar commercial properties with generous tax-loophole financing; starting off with a five-thousand-dollar commission on his first sale and then progressing to twenty-thousand-dollar ones, Lenny is raking in the cash and showering Linda with all the material possessions he thinks a Los Angeles bigshot's wife should have. But Lenny is spending it as fast as it's coming in, dangerously overextending himself -- maxing out their credits cards, buying a twin-engine Cessna, a nightclub and a matching Mercedes for Linda. The bottom inevitably drops out, though: reformers in Congress are putting an end to the tax loopholes, thus scaring off Lenny's clients into backing out of their deals, leaving Lenny and Max seven-hundred thousand dollars in debt.

Nothing wrong with The Boost so far in its believable characterizations and well-textured milieu of the takes-no-prisoners, cutthroat business world. The screenwriter, Darryl Ponicsan, may pen dialogue that's a tad overexplicit and representational so we're aware of the effort in getting the movie's theme across whenever the characters speak, and the director, Harold Becker, who previously worked with Woods on two Joseph Wambaugh adaptations, The Onion Field and The Black Marble, still hasn't developed anything of a distinctive visual style, but up until the forty-minute mark the movie manages to hold us with a sound narrative foothold. Lenny refuses to admit defeat, and rather than hide from his highly successful friends, he shows up at a party as if nothing's wrong; yet emotionally he's a basket case and allows himself to be talked into snorting cocaine for the first time -- he's told it's "only a boost" to get his confidence up again. And it does, though only when he's riding this artificial high: when he comes off of it the harsh reality of his situation gives rise again, and soon he and Linda are spending their few remaining dollars on the expensive drug. And the movie, which increasingly turns episodic and predictable, nosedives right along with them. Lenny vows to straighten himself out and temporarily succeeds, only for Linda to relapse at a crucial time during her pregnancy; and then Linda gets off the drug, only for Lenny to relapse right before nailing down a business deal that could put him right back on top; etc. Credibility dwindles on more than a few occasions just so the paper-thin story can progress, particularly involving the character of Joel Miller (an effective John Kapelos), the filthy-rich hotshot who gets Lenny hooked on the white powder: he looks and acts like the ultimate sleazoid from the get-go; and it's whoppingly implausible that Lenny would give him a phone call and invite him over for a visit while he and Linda are succeeding in remaining "clean" -- it's just so an easily foreseen miscarriage can result. Minus the profanity and nudity, The Boost could pass as one of those mediocre Movies of the Week. I'm not questioning the validity of the message the moviemakers are pushing, but the stunningly obvious context that sheds absolutely no light on quite the been-there/done-that subject, along with creaky plot mechanics so synthetic you can practically see the script's rusted joints. And the movie's technicians who've done exemplary work before aren't up to their game, either: Fatal Attraction's Howard Atherton contributes only serviceable cinematography, and The Deer Hunter's Stanley Myers's music score is bland and routine. Offensively manipulative, drearily didactic, The Boost has all the cautionary power of a Betty Ford Clinic pamphlet.

Though it's still available only on a full-frame DVD, "Clean and Sober" is still a far better alternative.

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originally posted: 01/13/14 13:33:02
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User Comments

2/13/17 morris campbell good movie clean and sober is good as well 4 stars
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  23-Dec-1988 (R)

  20-Jul-1989 (18)

  04-May-1989 (R)

Directed by
  Harold Becker

Written by
  Darryl Ponicsan

  James Woods
  Sean Young
  Steven Hill
  John Kapelos
  Kelle Kerr

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