A Movie A Day: Quint on BEST SELLER (1987)
I ain’t drivin’ nowhere, motherfucker. I’m on my break.
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection or from my DVR and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
We end our James Woods Marathon with today’s John Flynn movie BEST SELLER, co-starring Brian Dennehy. This movie is so thoroughly ‘80s… I loved it. Nothing like mid to late ‘80s filmmaking… overly-lit, with tons of steam during every single chase scene, but free to tell a tale without a clear-cut bad guy who drops as many F bombs as he wants.
If I had any doubt that this would be an ‘80s extravaganza they were erased when Larry Cohen’s name came up with a writing credit. I love Larry Cohen, especially ‘80s Larry Cohen. MANIAC COP, Q: THE WINGED SERPENT… THE Mother-Fuckin’ STUFF… hell yeah.
But I wasn’t aware that he wrote a straight-up dramatic thriller, let alone one directed by John ROLLING THUNDER Flynn, until stumbling upon this film used as my favorite used DVD store, Buybacks.
Predating POINT BREAK by 4 years, the flick opens with a heist of a police depot by a group wearing Nixon masks. Here we’re introduced to Dennehy, a cop in the wrong place at the right time.
As much as I liked this scene, they slipped up pretty big here. There is no doubt whatsoever that the main masked man is James Woods. His ADR is so clearly James Woods, his voice to distinct even when he tries to mask it, that there’s no doubt who he is.
Basically, Dennehy is left for dead, after getting a knife into the gunman, and ultimately survives to write a best selling book about the robbery. We move forward a decade, out of the ‘70s and into the ‘80s as Dennehy’s life is a mess. He’s a single parent raising his daughter, his wife dead, he owes a book that he’s delayed long enough that there might be legal action against him. Basically the only thing he has left is his job, still working the beat.
That’s where we meet back up with him, as he spring into action at a loading dock chasing down a dude I recognized as an ‘80s action regular, but couldn’t tell you his name. James Woods, decked out in an ‘80s brown suit, pops up out of nowhere, saves Dennehy’s life.
Woods disappears, then shows up a couple scenes later with a proposition. He wants Dennehy to write another book, this time about his former employer, a charming CEO who had a bookful of people knocked off during his rise to power.
Woods admits he’s a hitman and was involved with the robbery from the beginning of the movie, but only in that he was a driver… So there’s the problem with knowing Woods was the gunman who shoots Dennehy twice in the opening of the movie. When Dennehy buys his story and starts working with him on this book, the audience is now an easy half an hour ahead of the movie, just waiting for Dennehy to get wise.
But the real success of the movie is in the writing of Woods’ assassin, Cleve. Cohen didn’t pull any punches with his character. He’s dickish, he’s a cold-blooded killer without an iota of remorse or humanity about that aspect of his life, but as Dennehy gets to know him we find that he is very human. He wants a legacy. He’s helping to implicate his old boss for mysterious reasons, but the more we uncover the more we find out just how desperate he is to be painted as a good guy.
He can never make that change in his life, but he sure as hell can work towards how his image will look in the book. He doesn’t want to be a good man. He wants to be SEEN as a good man.
It’s a fascinating and dark character that Woods relishes playing. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s his best performance. This is the first time in the last few Woods movies where I heard the actor reading his lines and not speaking as the character. He’s still very good in the movie, but there was that distance for me.
Dennehy is good as the straight man, but really doesn’t get much of a chance to shine. His character is simple compared to Woods’, a good guy and good cop. He has one great scene where he is met by representatives fo the corporate who subtly threaten him against writing and publishing the book.
Dennehy gets to be incredibly strong and sarcastic here, flexing nuts and not bowing to any pressure. It’s fun for us to watch and it’s the one moment where I felt his character got to be proactive.
Performance-wise, Dennehy’s strong throughout, but this one scene is where he gets to excel.
John Flynn’s direction is perfectly fine, but the movie is nowhere near his best. For that, try to find either ROLLING THUNDER or THE OUTFIT, starring Robert Duvall, Joe Don Baker and Robert Ryan. I don’t think either are out on DVD yet (why the hell not?), but they’re both incredible movies.
Final Thoughts: BEST SELLER is a fun movie, completely in the ‘80s buddy-film mold, but with characters unique enough and a tone dark enough to keep it from becoming lost in the LETHAL WEAPONS of the era. We don’t get movies like this much anymore… extremely violent thrillers with morally reprehensible leads. That alone makes this one worthy of a viewing.
Here’s what we have lined up for the next week:
Wednesday, November 19th: THE HOLCROFT COVENANT (1985)
Thursday, November 20th: BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ (1962)
Friday, November 21st: WHITE HEAT (1949)
Saturday, November 22nd: MAN OF A THOUSAND FACES (1957)
Sunday, November 23rd: EACH DAWN I DIE (1938)
Monday, November 24th: THE BRIDE CAME C.O.D. (1941)
Tuesday, November 25th: THE PETRIFIED FOREST (1936)
Tomorrow we follow Victoria Tennant, who has a small role in this film, over to John Frankenheimer's 1985 Robert Ludlum adaptation, THE HOLCROFT COVENANT, starring Michael Caine. See you folks for that one!
June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay
August 21st: Man, Woman & Child
August 22nd: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane
August 23rd: The Young Philadelphians
August 24th: The Rack
August 25th: Until They Sail
August 26th: Somebody Up There Likes Me
August 27th: The Set-Up
August 28th: The Devil & Daniel Webster
August 29th: Cat People
August 30th: The Curse of the Cat People
August 31st: The 7th Victim
September 1st: The Ghost Ship
September 2nd: Isle of the Dead
September 3rd: Bedlam
September 4th: Black Sabbath
September 5th: Black Sunday
September 6th: Twitch of the Death Nerve
September 7th: Tragic Ceremony
September 8th: Lisa & The Devil
September 9th: Baron Blood
September 10th: A Shot In The Dark
September 11th: The Pink Panther
September 12th: The Return of the Pink Panther
September 13th: The Pink Panther Strikes Again
September 14th: Revenge of the Pink Panther
September 15th: Trail of the Pink Panther
September 16th: The Real Glory
September 17th: The Winning of Barbara Worth
September 18th: The Cowboy and the Lady
September 19th: Dakota
September 20th: Red River
September 21st: Terminal Station
September 22nd: The Search
September 23rd: Act of Violence
September 24th: Houdini
September 25th: Money From Home
September 26th: Papa’s Delicate Condition
September 27th: Dillinger
September 28th: Battle of the Bulge
September 29th: Daisy Kenyon
September 30th: Laura
October 1st: The Dunwich Horror
October 2nd: Experiment In Terror
October 3rd: The Devil’s Rain
October 4th: Race With The Devil
October 5th: Salo, Or The 120 Days of Sodom
October 6th: Bad Dreams
October 7th: The House Where Evil Dwells
October 8th: Memories of Murder
October 9th: The Hunger
October 10th: I Saw What You Did
October 11th: I Spit On Your Grave
October 12th: Naked You Die
October 13th: The Wraith
October 14th: Silent Night, Bloody Night
October 15th: I Bury The Living
October 16th: The Beast Must Die
October 17th: Hellgate
October 18th: He Knows You’re Alone
October 19th: The Thing From Another World
October 20th: The Fall of the House of Usher
October 21st: Audrey Rose
October 22nd: Who Slew Auntie Roo?
October 23rd: Wait Until Dark
October 24th: Dead & Buried
October 25th: A Bucket of Blood
October 26th: The Bloodstained Shadow
October 27th: I, Madman
October 28th: Return to Horror High
October 29th: Die, Monster, Die
October 30th: Epidemic
October 31st: Student Bodies
November 1st: Black Widow
November 2nd: The Ghost & Mrs. Muir
November 3rd: Flying Tigers
November 4th: Executive Action
November 5th: The Busy Body
November 6th: It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World
November 7th: Libeled Lady
November 8th: Up The River
November 9th: Doctor Bull
November 10th: Judge Priest
November 11th: Ten Little Indians
November 12th: Murder On The Orient Express
November 13th: Daniel
November 14th: El Dorado
November 15th: The Gambler
November 16th: Once Upon A Time In America
November 17th: Salvador
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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Nov. 19, 2008, 1:05 a.m. CST
Nov. 19, 2008, 2:43 a.m. CST
by Bob Loblaw Law Blog
is great! It's pretty long, but it's an awesome film. I'll be interested to see what you think of it, Quint.
Nov. 19, 2008, 2:44 a.m. CST
Better late than never with your review. Glad you liked it, though I love it a good deal more. For me, much more memorable than "Rolling Thunder", thought that's good fun in its own right and Devane is cool. I really love the script to "Best Seller". One of Cohen's better efforts with nicely formed characters. Oh, and the "ADR is so clearly James Woods"... Hardly a mistake. One knew from the advertising who the stars are and what the movie's about. It's not a film about the audience being "surprised"; it's about Dennehy's realization regrading the past. ..And nice to see a cheap-ass Australian movie poster with the 'M' rating. C ya
Nov. 19, 2008, 3:24 a.m. CST
I love to see their logo on a poster. It's kinda like seeing an old photo of an ex-pope smiling. So peaceful, yet so close to doom.
Nov. 19, 2008, 3:40 a.m. CST
I set my watch by it, and schedule my day around it. Also, Best Seller is good, but it's not a hair on the ass of Rolling Thunder.
Nov. 19, 2008, 3:49 a.m. CST
by Iowa Snot Client
No, seriously, that's what it says on his birth certificate.
Nov. 19, 2008, 4:16 a.m. CST
I take it you are referring to my comment... to each their own. I do like "Rolling Thunder"; just saying it didn't leave the same kinda "had a good time" impression -- I really dug "Best Seller" when I saw it at the movies. I didn't mean to compare the two at all.
Nov. 19, 2008, 4:19 a.m. CST
if Quint puts these up around the same time, I must be very confused. lol. It seemed a long time comin'... but maybe it's because I especially like "Best Seller" and was anxious to hear somebody else's take on it -- it's such a forgotten movie, for the most part.
Nov. 19, 2008, 5:47 a.m. CST
I dont know why, but I loved this movie more than any other movie Wood or Dennehy made. True, its been probably nearly a decade since I watched it last. I wonder if I will see the flaws as blatantly as Quint has if I watch it again now? But I doubt if I will like it less, as the vibe from both characters was what really sparked it for me so I'm kinda surprised when he said Wood was at his least impressive.
Nov. 19, 2008, 7:23 a.m. CST
A buddy back in Oz sent me the following link: http://www.thewest.com.au/default.aspx?MenuID=5&ContentID=108983
Nov. 19, 2008, 7:27 a.m. CST
ran in and punched me in the solar plexis... Do you have any idea what Diane Keaton's pussy tastes like after soaking in a tub of apple juice for 8 hours?... Then I swallowed a rubix cube, when a heroine crazed Brian Dennehy ran into my trailer and punched me in the solar plexis, and damn if when I didn't puke up the rubix cube it was SOLVED!
Nov. 19, 2008, 7:50 a.m. CST
Wow... you are more wasted than me. Hahaha... and probably gay. Just kidding. I like Di's fruit-flavored flax. ...And Bri's Rubik's cube is nothin' compared to the glory of Alah's beaver. Yeah, I scored one for our side, one less Mussie virgin. hahahaha Religion is pathetic. I don't care what side you're on. I'll fuck ya if I care for it. Man... very late.. very wasted... and it's freakin' me out that the TV aerial ain't workin' and Brad Pitt and kid are frozen on my 42 inch. Jesus Fuckin' Allah.
Nov. 19, 2008, 8:10 a.m. CST
anti-authority flick--screw the man.
Nov. 19, 2008, 8:14 a.m. CST
I am glad it finally got a review here. It presented a cold blooded reality about the type of people Cleve and his cohorts are. I especially loved the scene in the mansion when Cleve gets the drop on a fellow professional killer, and the man knows he is dead, and tells Cleve, with the same detachment he has used to murder others with no remorse, to 'get it over with', and Cleve instantly obliges. <p> It is not a great flick, but it is damned entertaining and Paul Shenar was one of the slimiest villains of the 80's.
Nov. 19, 2008, 8:14 a.m. CST
Nov. 19, 2008, 8:58 a.m. CST
I love the relationship between Dennehy and Woods - it was fresh and original.
Nov. 19, 2008, 9:22 a.m. CST
I need to go out and rent it again! I saw this when I was about 12 years old. The photobooth scene disturbed the fuck out of me!!
Nov. 19, 2008, noon CST
...my favourite smoking and swearing movies of the 80's but, yeah, i'll sit down and watch Messrs Woods and Dennehy in anything.
Nov. 19, 2008, 12:32 p.m. CST
Plotwise full of holes. Not my favourite Woods role. For sheer star power "diggstown" is the great movie. That is one movie you lend to a friend and fall in love with. This list though is getting LOONGGGG! I am starting to worry if you've seen any movies!
Nov. 19, 2008, 6:12 p.m. CST
by hank quinlan
Watched it a bunch when I was a kind. Still recall when the Nixons showed up if they stole it from The Dark Returns. Loved the trick where Woods kills the Bad Guys henchman and before he does asks the guys name. Youre like why? Then when Woods goes to locked door and they ask who he is, he says the guys name and they let him in. Some cool moments. Not as good as True Believer which I just watched again and is still a grade A script with great dialogue and Woods at his movie star best. But glad its getting its dues. Better then most "thrillers" they dump into the Spring nowadays that blow chunks.
Nov. 19, 2008, 11:22 p.m. CST
... listen to ain't it cruel. He is the commissioner of AMAD afterall. heh<BR><BR>But he's right that most of the time I end up posting my AMAD between 2 and 4am CST... depending on my sleep schedule. Sometimes it's earlier, depends on when I watch the movie and how long it takes me to write it up, but the rhythm I've been in for the last couple of months has me posting within that time frame. Looks like I might be a little earlier with today's AMAD... stay tuned!
Nov. 20, 2008, 4:56 a.m. CST
I still have it on video, in the basement. May be due a rewatch. Make a good tripple-bill with Bad Influence & Running Scared.
Nov. 20, 2008, 2:31 p.m. CST
and like John Ashton, I was dyin' for a smoke when I left the show...lol.
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