Against All Odds (1984) – Taylor Hackford

Jeff Bridges, Rachel Ward and James Woods star in this noir-esque film that fumbles visually, as far as I’m concerned. Everyone knows the hit song by Phil Collins that came out of this film, and honestly, when it’s used over the end credits that shows a crying and struggling to smile Ward, it’s got a punch, one that kind of lacks in the rest of the film.

Bridges plays Terry Brogan a NFL star with a broken shoulder who has just been shown the door by his team, whose owner is more interested in real estate and profits than the sport. He gets hauled in by an old acquaintance, Jake Wise (Woods in another variation of a tool role) and blackmailed into agreeing to track down a missing woman, Jessie Wyler (Ward).

Jake claims his in love with her, and she just took off at some point. He wants Terry to locate her, keep an eye on her until he can reclaim her.

So Terry heads to Mexico, and here is where the remainder of the film should have played out amidst sun-drenched shore lines and ruins. To juxtapose these visuals with noir tropes is brilliant, and breathes a bit of interesting life into the genre.

Terry and Jessie meet and begin a steamy relationship that fuels them both before tragedy strikes and Wise learns where they are. Jessie disappears and Terry returns to Los Angeles where the story resumes. Here’s the visual stumble. Gone are the sun-drenched colours, even though we’re in LA, and a number of sequences happen at night, embracing the noir stereotypes and tropes.

Everyone has a secret, no one can be trusted completely, and it all ties into betting, profits, football and real estate, culminating in the question of what you would give up to make sure the person you loved was safe. I love the layers of the characters, especially Terry and Jessie. The way their characters are forced into horrible decisions when all they want to be is together. It’s fantastic, and of course that Phil Collins’ tune, which won him a Grammy.

Both Bridges and Ward look fantastic in this movie (I could very easily have done without Woods) and the film itself is a remake of 1947’s Out of the Past, and it could have been a really captivating update of the noir genre for the 80s, but the pacing, and settings didn’t seem to serve it as well as it could have.

A sun-drenched noir though sounds sooo good. Where’s my pen? Noir is a genre that I absolutely love, and enjoy digging into no matter what iteration it takes. So while I enjoyed it, and it’s Jeff Bridges and that’s always good, I also realise it could have been so much better.


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