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Overall Rating
3.25

Awesome: 4.17%
Worth A Look: 29.17%
Average58.33%
Pretty Bad: 4.17%
Total Crap: 4.17%

2 reviews, 12 user ratings


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Against All Odds (1984)
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by Jay Seaver

"Not the tune you'd expect."
3 stars

Show of hands: How many people under the age of, say, forty-five know that there was a movie called "Against All Odds" in the mid-1980s in large part because of the ubiquitous Phil Collins power ballad and this assumed it was more about a relationship triumphing over an adverse environment than a thriller? It's okay, my hand is up too. There are good reasons for that - first, the suspense takes a fair amount of time to surface; second, the song is a heck of a lot catchier than the movie.

The film centers on Terry Brogan (Jeff Bridges), a receiver for the L.A. Outlaws coming off shoulder surgery cut from the team without pay because football contacts are notoriously one-sided. Having saved very little of what he's earned and had his lawyer (Saul Rubinek) move up in the world enough to be representing the team's owner (Jane Greer) in her real estate dealings, he winds up taking a job from Jake Wise (James Woods), a nightclub owner and bookie of his acquaintance: Find Jessie Wyler (Rachel Ward), the girlfriend who stabbed Jake and made off to Mexico with fifty thousand dollars of his money, and also happens to be the son of the team's owner. Of course, when he does, it's not exactly surprising that he likes her a heck of a lot more than them.

This film is described as being based upon noir classic Out of the Past, although screenwriter Eric Hughes and director Taylor Hackford have updated and altered the story enough to make this film is own thing. In some cases, they might have been better off paying it back down to something simpler; the plot is a mess of sports betting, real estate development, and force jealousy that seldom seems to move in the same direction or give Terry and Jessie a strong antagonist to fight against. Its also noteworthy that the film opens with Terry asking around as to whether the people in this Mexican town have seen Jessie, because that's what the movie's hook is, and then it takes an awful long time to circle back there.

Which isn't to say that the film would necessarily be improved by cutting this out and making up for it with some flashbacks and exposition; a couple characters who are both enjoyable to watch and useful to the plot later on would be poorly served by that, as would the romance between Terry and Jessie. It's thin enough to need a little room to breathe and get the audience to accept its importance to the pair, as does the idyllic feel of their south-of-the-border island exile. There are nifty bits in there - a moment in practice when Terry basically allows the ownership to goad him into self-destructing, or when he admires a Mayan arena only to have Jessie point out that is athletes and gamblers played for much higher stakes than him - but the film doesn't really find itself until it returns to California.

Well, maybe just before that, when it becomes time to actively flee rather than just enjoy being where Jake isn't. When it comes time for bodies to start dropping and people to start potentially betraying each other, Hackford and editors Fredric and William Steinkamp pick up the pace and give those scenes a chance to crackle and shock, and pulling more characters who don't expect to deal with actual violence in helps to keep the audience from taking things for granted (they also show plenty of skill at the under-appreciated at of making sure the vier knows where everybody is relative to that gun on the ground). The script gets snappier, too - less grumbling from professional athletes and a beautiful heiress who didn't appreciate their good fortune and more wisecracks, whether they spring from nervousness or toughening up.

The cast of this movie is interesting in a few ways, at least billed from thirty years later. Rachel Ward is actually first-billed despite the story following Jessie much less than Terry, making one wonder if she was a more active, multifaceted character at some point in the process (or if Ward was seen as a potential star at the time). She's good at what she does here - she's charismatic enough that we get why two men would do all they do to be with her - but when it comes time to raise the possibility that she has her own game, Ward falters. Jeff Bridges, meanwhile, did break out after this, although it's probably a little surprising to those who best remember him from what he's done since around the time of The Big Lebowski to see that he was once the guy in the cast folks wanted to take his shirt off. He does give Terry a nice edge throughout, though, whether it be entitlement or ferocity. James Woods, meanwhile, is a sleeker version of his later self but still perfect for this sort of role. The smaller parts are full of fun things to spot: Former NFLer Alex Karras as an Outlaws coach, an early role for Swoosie Kurtz, Out of the Past love interest Jane Greer as Jessie's mother and film noir stalwart Richard Wizard as her husband.

It's been some time since I saw "Out of the Past", so I don't find "Against All Odds" more disappointing in comparison. It's just a movie that too seldom makes the most of its best elements and sometimes - like when it has a too-plaintive ballad playing over the closing credits - just doesn't know the note it's trying to hit.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=3256&reviewer=371
originally posted: 01/09/16 14:01:26
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User Comments

2/13/17 morris campbell not 2 good best i remember 2 stars
1/16/16 Jack His name is Richard WIDMARK, not WIZARD. 5 stars
3/22/08 Pamela White good acting great location 4 stars
11/21/04 Pinkline Jones About as enjoyable as a penile resurfacing using a cheese grater 1 stars
4/27/04 4x4 80's hottie Rachel Ward. Cool scenery. 4 stars
3/26/04 Alfred Guy A pretty good movie that highlights the music, clothes and style of the 80s. 4 stars
3/25/04 Shelley Shea Seeing Kid Creole was the icing on a great cake. 4 stars
3/24/04 y2mckay Did Rachel Ward get naked in this? been so long, can't recall. If she did . . . 4 stars
3/24/04 Leslie Lato A good movie! 4 stars
3/09/03 Jack Sommersby Flawed yet never boring. Well-acted and -directed, with good location shooting. 4 stars
10/15/02 Charles Tatum Why make new noir when it is so much like old noir? 3 stars
7/09/02 R.W. Welch A stab at noir that doesn't quite jell despite good effort by Woods. 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  18-May-1984 (R)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  02-Feb-1985


Directed by
  Taylor Hackford

Written by
  Eric Hughes

Cast
  Rachel Ward
  Jeff Bridges
  James Woods
  Alex Karras
  Richard Widmark
  Dorian Harewood



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