John Dahl is one of a handful of directors who really does a great job at bringing film noir to a modern setting. Call it neo-noir or whatever you like, but I've found that a lot of directors try, but can't quite pull it off. Between this film, THE LAST SEDUCTION and the masterful RED ROCK WEST, Dahl is a freakin' Noir hero in my mind.
The setup here is solid. A woman (Joanne Walley-Kilmer) double crosses her boyfriend (Michael Madsen) and makes off with some loot they stole in a fatal robbery. She gets the idea to hire a private investigator (Val Kilmer) to help fake her death to throw Madsen off the scent. But things don't go quite as planned as they are want to do in films noir. Dahl has a great sense of noir tropes like stock characters, flashbacks and stupid decisions. He carries off that air of fatalism that the best noirs have. He seems to know what twists we are expecting and he leans into some of them while veering unexpectedly away from others. Val Kilmer plays a great down on his luck gumshoe - feels like a character Mitchum could have played. And Madsen is menacing as all heck here - a good three years before RESERVOIR DOGS. In fact he feels like he's kind of auditioning for Mr. Blonde with this role. It's easy to see why Tarantino favors Madsen and has cast him in so many films. He really is a great actor and a guy who can play a certain kind of dangerous low-life especially well. He's dangerous be used he's unpredictable and beset with a charming smile (which he usually flashes right before some violence goes down). Walley-Kilmer is a memorable femme fatale and has a very evil streak running through her. She plays the desperation and a combination of arrogance and naivety quite deftly. The three actors make for a nifty ensemble.
Also, any supporting cast that included the great John Gries (Lazlo Hollyfeld himself) is okay with me. Overall, KILL ME AGAIN is a neat little noir. It was Dahl's debut film and really set the tone for what was to come from him. While his later works are stronger, I still feel like this is a neat little movie and a solid way to kick off a career of noir-tinged excellence.
James Woods and Sean Young get hooked on cocaine in this dark tale and as well-acted as it is in parts, it's hard to get through. Drug addiction movies are, by there very nature, tough to watch. Gambling movies are similarly anxiety inducing. As we watch them, we keep hoping against hope that the characters we (hopefully) care at least a little bit about will pull out of their plummeting nosedive into one bad choice after another. We begin to look for the littlest victories - like those fleeting moments before they take another drink or do another line. THE BOOST combines the drug addiction movie with a bit of a gambling movie too in that it also deals with real estate and tax shelter investments - both of which can be pretty unpredictable. The problem that can happen with movies like this is that the filmmakers aren't necessarily counting on the audience starting to check out at a certain point when the addict characters just will not stop screwing themselves over. It is what addicts do after all. But at a certain point, at least I myself start to feel the empathy I once had start to drain away and give rise to resentment and disinterest. This happens to me almost every time I watch a movie like this. The rare exception is with PANIC IN NEEDLE PARK, which is just guy wrenching because you absolutely cannot let go of your empathy for Al Pacino and Kitty Wynn. James Woods and Sean Young are both pretty great actors (or at least they can be). It's not quite enough to keep me on board as they go down the tubes in this movie though. They play it quite well, but it's a tough sit. Interestingly, both drug addiction movies and film noirs are imbued with fatalism, but for some reason the mechanism of different in both. Film noir sees characters making choosing paths poorly out of a sense of misguided or false affection of just outright stupidity. Drug addicts can't help themselves either, but it's just so much harder to watch. The movie is saved a bit by the two lead performances, though it is still as downbeat as you might expect a movie like this could be. I will say that, as far as "descent into drug addiction" movies go, this one is certainly an effective cautionary tale.
THE BOOST can be purchased on Blu-ray here:
THE BOOST can be purchased on Blu-ray here: