Desperate Hours (1990) Michael Cimino

Gross: $2.7 million

Before we start I’ll say I haven’t seen the original so I won’t be comparing this movie to that.

So at last I have come to the final Michael Cimino bomb. This is not the last movie he ever made (The Sunchaser) but thankfully the last I have to review. As I mentioned before, we have been all over the scale of quality from Deer Hunter (great), to Year of the Dragon (meh), to The Sunchaser (utter shit). Where does Desperate Hours fit into Cimino’s oeuvre? The painfully embarrassing category.

The movie is about psychotic convict Michael (Mickey Rourke) who is about to go to trial for murder. He escapes by seducing his lawyer and fleeing with the help of two of his gang played by David Morse and Elias Koteas. They hide out at the house of the Cornells and Michael tries to arrange for his female lawyer to meet them there so they can all run away to Mexico.

This plot is so bad it defies belief. The script tries to paint Michael as some mad genius killer and his lawyer (Kelly Lynch) is some smooth femme fatale. Michael’s brilliant plan involves kidnapping a family for SEVERAL DAYS and hoping no one notices this. This almost reaches the level of a British farce the number of people that show up and the larger this kidnapping plot goes on. First it is just the wife, then the husband (Anthony Hopkins) shows up, then the son, then the daughter, then the boyfriend of the daughter, then the water heater repairman, then the real estate agent! No I am not kidding! Then we have the brilliant lawyer who can supposedly fool everyone. That is until the cops decide to follow her until she leads them to Michael. And this is not subtle following either. They are following her in cars with lights and sirens and a plane overhead and she is still so rock stupid as to call Michael and continue to the house! You know, one of the rules about writing is don’t overuse exclamation points but holy crap this writing is so stupid it is hard not to.

The stupid moments don’t stop there. How about when the police have the house surrounded and full blockades on the streets. Now earlier on in the movie the daughter’s boyfriend called and the daughter brushed him off (so he wouldn’t end up stumbling on the house to get killed). What does the boyfriend do? He blows through a full police blockade and demands that the daughter goes out on a date. I’m sorry…WHAT!?!?!?!? What’s crazier is Michael lets the daughter go out on a date provided she doesn’t talk to the police about what’s going on. Do any of these people live in the real world?

Then we get a scene where the cops talk strategy about how to end the hostage situation. Since there is only one man with a gun in there, the 2nd in command has a straight forward approach where he has SWAT go in with flashbangs and kill the suspect quickly. The head FBI agent gives him a dressing down and almost calls for his resignation for such a morally reprehensible and dangerous plan. What is her plan? Send unarmed innocent people in to draw him out and then open fire with automatic weapons as Michael takes the family as human shields. Why that’s f*cking brilliant! Totally safer than the other guy’s plan…IDIOT!

The plot is not just embarrassing. The movie should also be entitled “How to Embarrass Veteran Actors”. You have Anthony Hopkins, Mickey Rourke, David Morse, and Elias Koteas and they give some of the worst performances of their careers. I don’t even know what to say about Anthony Hopkins. He just has such a bizarre character it is hard to describe why it is bad. He is an overbearing, manipulative, cheating husband, yet the movie wants us to be rooting for him to get back together with his wife and sides with him on all issues. There is a scene where the wife has locked up the house (so no one comes in on the kidnappers) and Hopkins stalks around the house yelling at the top of his lungs he wants to talk to her and will wait as long as it takes. This isn’t endearing; it’s criminal. This is stalker behavior. Also the less said about his American/Welsh accent the better. Speaking of bad accents, lets talk about Lindsay Crouse who plays the head FBI agent. She gives the oddest performance for this movie and that is really saying something. She has this odd British/Southern accent which fluctuates at all times. Her character is so bizarre and mannerisms so distracting if you told the audience she is an alien from Mars in disguise as a human we may buy it more than what she is doing here. I now know where Willem Dafoe got his inspiration to play in drag in Boondock Saints. Mickey Rourke is over the top as what I can only describe as Raging Bull crossed with a bit of Fonzie. David Morse is also an honorable mention as the mentally challenged gang member who is one step away from “Tell me about the rabbits George…” Yeah, the movie goes there. There is a particularly funny scene where after disposing of a body he stumbles out of camp ground brush covered in blood in front of two scantily clad women and with the straightest of faces asks them for a ride into town as if there is nothing wrong.

That leads to the biggest obstacle of the movie; the direction. I don’t think a remake is that sacrilege of an idea in the right hands. Cimino clearly has no idea what he is doing. This is a serious movie but you cannot help but laugh at it all. The cinematography and the music and everything else is telling you that you should feel sorry for this guy or sad about this but the way it is actually executed you are laughing your balls off. There is a total disconnect between what Cimino wants and what is shown on screen. This is like a Tommy Wiseau adaptation of Desperate Hours.

So yeah, if you are in need of some quick laughs and want to mock a horrendous movie then Desperate Hours may fit the bill. This is a horrendous movie which highlights the express elevator to rock bottom in the career of Michael Cimino. With each passing movie his potential and talent just go down down down. There was a time when I only had seen Deer Hunter and I pondered to myself how someone like this could never get another hit again. Well, I now know and it was a brutal lesson to learn.


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