July 4, 2013

No Way Out

The goons follow Costner

Stub Hubby Amazon Streaming presents: No Way Out

Set within the corridors of the Pentagon, when a love triangle, an accidental murder, and a spy hunt collide, Kevin Costner is stuck in the middle as he's tasked with solving a murder, where he's the number one suspect.
A fascinating and gripping thriller. Always rewatchable. My Stub Hubby Grade: A-minus (for old 1980s technology)

Costner is an up-and-coming Navy Commander Farrell, who falls in love with a D.C. socialite Susan Atwell (Sean Young)...who's also the mistress of the Secretary of Defense David Brice (Gene Hackman)...who's also Farrell's boss. Except for a hot sex scene in the back of a limo (later parodied in Hot Shots!) and a daring sea rescue (inserted to build Farrell's character, and add some action), the first 45 minutes places all the chess pieces on the board at a leisurely pace. Then Brice accidentally kills Susan in their love nest...and we're off to the races.
Think, damnit, think!
Much like 1990's Presumed Innocent, No Way Out is a thriller with a twist ending, that still works when you've seen it before and know how it's going to turn out. Now that I think about it, there's more than one similarity:
  • Plot revolves around a woman who was having an affair with both the protagonist and the protagonist's boss
  • Protagonist is tasked with solving murder, but his boss doesn't know about his affair with the deceased
  • Murder investigation is complicated by political motivations
  • Friend of the protagonist helps protect his friend by concealing evidence
Costner rolls over the hood of a car,
much to the chagrin of the
insurance company
Action: Has Hollywood lost the art of a good foot chase? Costner is chased across town and across the Pentagon (up stairwells, down alleys, along canals, down escalators, and over the hoods of cars) and it all looks terrific. I've read that Costner did many of his own stunts, and it feels like it.

Production Value: The Washington-area locations are priceless. The breakfast meeting on the roof of the Hay Adams Hotel was even a little show-offy. The interior photography of the Pentagon (actually shot at the Department of the Interior) looks amazing. The sea rescue (where Costner rescues a sailor from falling overboard a destroyer during a storm at night) looks pretty fake.

Super-80s animated titles!
This Is 1987: The movie begins with a 3 minute title sequence, with terribly "modern" animated title cards. The opening titles music is bad, and the theme song "No Way Out" performed by Julia Migenes and Paul Anka during the limo sex scene, is worse. The technology used in the investigation is hilariously antique, but it's not super-distracting:
  • To track Susan's movements before she was murdered, they have to gather credit card receipts from hotels and gas stations within a 50-mile radius...but these are carbon copy receipts, so "it takes a few days for them all to come in"
  • Farrell can pin the murder on Brice, if he can find a record on a computer database. His techie friend Sam (George Dzundza) says "we can interface" with a straight face..."but they're closed for the day." Eventually the records start printing on a commercial-grade carriage-feed printer, that prints a line of text every few seconds.
  • This next one will sound like complete gibberish to anyone under age 35: the only hard evidence that Susan and Farrell were having an affair is the emulsion backing of a Polaroid photo Susan took of Farrell, found in Susan's bedroom. The positive photo is long gone, but Sam can reproduce a positive photo from the silver emulsion...with some help from an image processing "computer program."
If this crime took place anytime in the last 15 years, the credit card records would be instantly accessed, the record on the database, ditto, and Susan wouldn't have a Polaroid camera in 2013, cuz they don't exist anymore!

Cast: Stocked with talent: Kevin Costner is the calm and conflicted man-in-the-middle. He has to make the Farrell character's motivations and thought processes work before and after you've seen the twist ending. Gene Hackman is ideal as the ruthless politician who turns weak and cowardly when attempting to save his career. Will Patton (currently costarring on Falling Skies) is magnetic as the Brice's top aide and architect of the coverup. Sean Young brings her blend of sexy, needy, and naked. Dead-eyed and intimidating Marshall Bell is an ideal goon/assassin (I saw him again on Sunday in The Bling Ring).

Credits: Directed by journeyman Roger Donaldson (Species, Dante's Peak, Cadillac Man...and Cocktail!) Last movie for cinematographer John Alcott (The Shining, Barry Lyndon, Clockwork Orange); penultimate movie for screenwriter Robert Garland (The Electric Horseman). Debut of future Senator Fred Dalton Thompson (as CIA Director Marshall).

Fun Fact: Released in August 1987, a week after another movie I watched this week, Stakeout. Stakeout and No Way Out ranked #1 and #2 that weekend in the box office. The Top Five, according to the NYT:
  1. Stakeout $4.7 million
  2. No Way Out $3.8 million
  3. Dirty Dancing $3.61 million
  4. The Fourth Protocol $3.6 million
  5. Hamburger Hill $3.3 million