April brings us another round of Blog Free or Die Hard, one of my favorite themes next to Ewan McGregor/Hellraiser month…and every other theme of the blog collab. This week we opt for a throwback featuring John Travolta, dramatic ’80s scores, and sketchy, sketchy payphones.
Where to Watch:
Netflix UK apparently
The Uncondensed Version:
John Travolta has been the sound editor for low-budget horror for the past couple of years. It’s a living. The latest picture is presenting a challenge, as he can’t seem to get some of the sounds right, in particular the screams of the slasher victims in the film. To gather sounds for the film, he decides to somewhat sketchily hang around parks at night and record general nature sounds. What could possibly go wrong? You might ask. Naturally, JT (conveniently, for both John Travolta and his character, Jack Terri) sees something he’s not supposed to see…or rather hears something he shouldn’t.
Just before a car dives headlong into the river, passengers inside, JT hears a gunshot and realizes this crash isn’t an accident. His deep sense of moral conviction doesn’t permit him to remain a bystander, so he jumps in shortly thereafter to help the surviving passenger, a young woman (of course).
While at the hospital, JT learns the victim of the car crash was none other than the fictional Governor McRyan, top contender for the presidential nomination in the upcoming election. JT is encouraged to keep quiet about the presence of the young woman as this news would only upset McRyan’s family further. He reluctantly agrees to do what seems like the honorable thing…but is it?
The young woman, Sally, is very confused and agitated in the hospital and eager to leave. JT brings her to a motel so she can rest, but also so he can obsessively play his recording of the crash to figure out what happened with the accident and why. Meanwhile, we learn someone really is destroying and covering up evidence surrounding the crash. Spoiler alert: It’s John Lithgow. As we learn soon after, John Lithgow escalates things super fucking quickly.
JT tries to get more information out of Sally about her relationship with McRyan, but she doesn’t take well to this line of questioning. At this point JT does get really fucking irritating and insists they get a drink since he did save her life and all. FFS, save a woman from drowning because it’s the right thing to do—not because you expect her to get a goddamn drink with you.
Annoyingly, they do get a drink, but mostly so we can learn about JT’s tragic backstory investigating police corruption. I sometimes worry about the lack of empathy I have for characters in realistic scenarios, but his story came off as a bit melodramatic and led to some pretty cringey Travolta overacting.
As it turns out, Sally has a dark past of her own, and was part of a conspiracy to ruin McRyan’s political career. This is apparently all too much for the honorable JT, who you know…probably never saw anything worse in his days of investigating police corruption.
But to return to John Lithgow. Remember how he was going to take shit too far suddenly? As part of the conspiracy to eliminate McRyan from the competition, John Lithgow decided to just straight-up eliminate him by shooting out his car tire. But the plan included Sally’s death and, since she’s one of the few people who can tie all of this back to the conspirators, she needs to die. John Lithgow actually becomes a serial killer with a fucking garrote watch and all, targeting sex workers who look like Sally so her death won’t seem too out of the ordinary. TWIS. TED.
What will happen when John Lithgow poses as a journalist trying to get all of the evidence connecting him to the crime? If you’re squaring off with someone who has a garrote watch, it’s probably not going to end well.
4/5 Pink Panther Heads
The plot is solid, and John Lithgow is obv a delight. To the extent sociopathic serial killers with goddamn murder watches can be considered a delight. In true film noir style, the entire movie is incredibly dark, and the ending doesn’t shy away from that. This is an indictment on politics, Hollywood, the media…virtually every angle of American life. Since some of the elements of this film are right out of the ’80s thriller playbook, I expected a cop-out ending, but ended up really impressed.
On the other hand, there’s just something that vaguely irritates me about John Travolta no matter what…? I think I watched Grease too much growing up, and he was one of the first men to disappoint me with his stupid expectations for women.
I also had such a problem with the roles for women in this film, who are all props without exception. I really wanted to like Sally, but she just felt like a pawn with no real dimension, and she was soooooooooooooooooooooooo naïve for a woman who agreed to a sleazy plot to set up a politician, And as a minor point of irritation–her voice was really grating. She brought up shades of Lina Lamont from Singin’ in the Rain to me. Is it me or is Lina Lamont still more of a feminist icon than Sally in this movie?