* 1/2 - Mickey Rourke, Anthony Hopkins, Mimi Rogers, Lindsay Crouse, Kelly Lynch; rated R (violence, sex, nudity, profanity); Century 9 Theaters, Cineplex Odeon Midvalley and Trolley Square Cinemas, Mann Cottonwood Mall Theaters, Redwood Drive-in (with "Death Warrant").
The other night I watched director William Wyler's 1955 version of "The Desperate Hours," which starred Humphrey Bogart as a killer who hides out in a suburban home, holding the family hostage. Fredric March was the head of the household.After 35 years, that stark, housebound black-and-white film still holds up quite well as a compelling cat-and-mouse psychological thriller about power and control and a family pulling together in a crisis.
Now comes a new 1990 "Desperate Hours," with Mickey Rourke in the Bogie role and Anthony Hopkins as the family head. What a difference 35 years makes.
This time the family is broken, with Hopkins living away from home after an affair with a woman half his age. Wife Mimi Rogers has brought a gun into the house for protection, something she will later regret, while their two children aren't at all happy with Papa.
And, of course, there's the requisite R-rated violence, profanity and nudity and a couple of car chases.
The film opens with defense attorney Kelly Lynch, the film's weakest, most unlikely character, speeding down a remote mountain road to drop off a car. Then she takes the bus back into Salt Lake City to be in court. She's trying to spring her client - the violent, but highly intelligent Rourke, who has become an accomplished writer in prison and has all kinds of literary references (any sidelong glances toward Jack Abbott and Norman Mailer are purely coincidental, of course).
But Rourke is prone to outbursts in court and claims he wants to represent himself. Lynch asks the court for a moment alone and passes a gun to him, hidden, somehow, in a garter belt under her miniskirt.
Rourke breaks out of his cell, takes a moment to rape Lynch in the hall and then drags her outside and jumps into a waiting car to drive off with his brother and another big, dumb con.
Then, for reasons never explained, instead of heading out of town, Rourke and friends drive into the suburbs and take over a house that's for sale. This is, of course, the residence of Hopkins and Rogers, another unlikely couple with no more chemistry than Rourke and Lynch. (There's also an FBI agent, Lindsay Crouse, tracking Rourke and barking orders to her colleagues with a thick Southern accent that comes and goes, often sounding like a bad imitation of Lena Horne.)
Most of the film is made up of unpleasant histrionics blasting the soundtrack and occasionally causing confusion with the story. Where the first film was based on the intelligence of the criminal and his more cultured brother as they played mind-games with the family - and vice-versa - this movie seems to be about screaming.
Written by two scriptwriters with Joseph Hayes - author of the novel, Broadway play and the 1955 movie script - is also more jumpy and violent than the original, with dumb reactions and none of the civility that distinguished the first film.
Director Michael Cimino, whose credits cover a broad spectrum, from the Oscar-winning "The Deer Hunter" to the ultimate megabomb "Heaven's Gate," has worked with Rourke before, on "Heaven's Gate" and "Year of the Dragon," big movies where his natural propensity toward flamboyance seemed more appropriate.
So whenever he gets his cameras outside, Cimino seems to go berserk. Would you believe one of the killers being stalked by police in a redrock canyon as the soundtrack music begins swelling with "Red River Valley"?
But the main problem here is that "Desperate Hours" is a spare, claustrophobic character study, and with his choppy editing and constantly moving camera, Cimino never allows us to get to know or understand any of these people, an essential ingredient for the story's success.
This is a top-notch cast, each of the performers having done very well in other pictures - but here everyone is way over the top. Lindsay Crouse and Kelly Lynch look the worst, while Mimi Rogers comes off best in the film's early scenes but later is reduced to little more than crying and looking frightened. (In the first film the Rogers character was much more fully rounded with some important things to do.)
It may seem unfair to be making so many comparisons to the Bogart classic. After all, the 1990 "Desperate Hours" should stand or fall on its own weight since most moviegoers today will not be familiar with the 1955 film.
But the specific alterations of this remake are what do it in.
Unless spotting a lot of local color (it was filmed largely in Salt Lake City, with some outdoor shots filmed in Telluride, Col.) or seeing local newscasters like Alexis Fernandez (along with the KUTV logo) is enough to make up for the film's flaws, you're advised to look elsewhere.
Or rent the Bogart version.
"Desperate Hours" is rated R for violence, profanity, sex and two or three shots of Lynch topless.