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USA 1994
Directed by
Richard Rush
123 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Color Of Night

Anyone familiar with director’s previous (by 14 years) cult film, The Stunt Man, won’t be disappointed by this energetically bizarre thriller.  Color Of Night is the sort of film that audiences will either dismiss outright as bungling of the first water or clasp to their bosoms as a marvellously tongue-in-cheek pastiche of 1980s thrillers, a worthy precursor to American Psycho.  Although at the time of its release the overwhelming critical response leant toward the former  viewpoint  (Rush has not made a film since)  there are good grounds to take the latter position – basically, given the evident directorial intelligence behind it, how could it NOT be?

Bruce Willis plays Bill Capa, a New York psychologist who is traumatized by the suicide of one of his patients before his eyes.  Closing his practice Bill goes to Los Angeles to hang out with his celebrity pop psychologist buddy. Bob (Scott Bakula). When Bob is inexplicably murdered Bill takes over his Monday night group session from which he believes  the murderer will emerge.

Everything about Color Of Night suggests that is not in any way to be taken seriously.  The first thing that you need to know is that Rush came out of the Roger Corman exploitation movie-making scene, having directed the low budget 1967 Jack Nicholson feature, Hell’s Angels on Wheels.

If Bruce Willis as a psychotherapist is a big ask then there’s the ludicrous group therapy session which includes a sex addict, (Leslie Ann Warren), a woman obsessed with sex; a  fellow (Lance Henriksen) grievi8ng over the death of his wife and daughter; a lawyer with OCD (Brad Dourif), an artist into S&M and some strange goggle-eyed kid with gender identity issues.  Why all these people are banded together is never explained.  On top of this throw into the mix an OTT Hispanic cop (Ruben Blades) and a hot tamale, Rose Jane March) who rear-ends Bob’s car as a prelude to having sex with Bill. The latter leads to one of the best sex scenes you’re like to see in a (relatively) mainstream film along with random topless and bottomless scenes thrown in just for good measure as the otherwise unremarkable plot unfolds.

Adapting a story by Billy Ray, who has since gone on to A list projects, Rush goes at his material with uniquely stylish gusto without ever straying into the gratuitously crass as an Abel Ferrara might be wont do, throwing in a big budget car chase and building to a full on Gothic horror finale whilst maintaining a Tarantino-esque sense of irony. 

It would be easy to dismiss Color of Night as an egregious misfire, but is in reality a wonderful melange of genre elements and one of the most excessive retro-B grade/film noir movies that you’re likely to come across.




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