Night Blindness

Although I've always been a vocal opponent of censorship in almost any form, after viewing the racy Color of Night I've had a change of heart. The time has come for Hollywood to start policing itself. I'm not talking about explicit sexual content A no, if anything I'd like to see plenty more of that. What I think they really need to clamp down on is the flourishing of hackneyed plots and stereotypical roles. The American movie industry is drowning in witless, warmed-over, shopworn, secondhand hogwash. Drastic measures are in order.

My recommendations? Start by outlawing sequels and movies based on TV series or comic books. Then declare a moratorium on cool cops, misunderstood mobsters, hookers with hearts of gold, mysterious sex kittens, intrepid journalists, macho soldiers, slashers, suave spies, and troubled shrinks. Hollywood's output would be reduced to about a dozen films per year. And none of them would be The Flintstones.

Or Color of Night, which is your basic troubled shrink-cum-slasher movie spritzed up with a little steamy sex. Trying to emulate Basic Instinct with psychobabble overtones is neither particularly ambitious nor groundbreaking. Bruce Willis is Dr. Bill Capa, a prosperous New York City psychologist who abandons his practice after a volatile patient swan dives through his umpteenth-floor office window in midsession. Capa flies to L.A. to pick up the pieces with the help of college buddy and fellow analyst Dr. Bob Moore (Scott Bakula), earning Willis's character the dubious distinction of being the only person in the U.S. stupid enough to go to L.A. to try to gain his sanity. Drs. Bill and Bob haven't seen each other in years, know virtually nothing about each other's present lives, and cannot resist the urge to compete athletically like preadolescents. By Hollywood standards that qualifies them as best friends.

But Dr. Bob has problems of his own. For starters there's his prickly weekly therapy group, which Dr. Bill reluctantly sits in on for a session. They're the usual can of assorted nuts: Sondra, the oversexed divorcee; Clark, the control-freak lawyer; Casey, the tormented young painter with the S&M proclivities; Buck, the belligerent bully haunted by the loss of his wife and son (Wait! The gruff exterior is only a ruse! He's really a softie who breaks down whenever he tries to talk about it.); and last but not least Richie, the anguished teenager with gender-identification problems who was sexually abused as a child.

Dr. Bob's second problem is related to his first. Someone is phoning him with death threats and he suspects the culprit is a member of the group. Before either shrink can do much to help the other with his specific woes Dr. Bob's tormentor makes good on his threat. At the urging of tough cop Hector Martinez (Ruben Blades -- guess he figures if you can't be president of Panama, high-priced character actor isn't a bad fallback gig), Dr. Bill takes over Dr. Bob's group in an effort to figure out the killer's identity. Of course, Dr. Bill soon has death threats of his own to contend with, not to mention a mysterious fantasy girlfriend who whips him into an erotic frenzy yet refuses to give him her phone number.

The only element of Color of Night that moviegoers haven't seen before is Bruce Willis's bare butt and that thrill is hardly worth $6.50. Granted, closeups of Willis's tush (underwater, no less!) are not as humiliating as the pink bunny suit he donned for North. As for the rumors of frontal nudity and an NC-17 rating, apparently the studio censors at Cinergi Productions won out in their dispute with director Richard Rush over the final cut, and exercised their privilege to perform a Bobbitt on Willis's willy.

Sad to say it probably wouldn't have made much difference if Willis's privatest parts hadn't been snipped. The sexual chemistry between Bruce and toothsome little Jane March never so much as threatens to combust. The big swimming pool lovemaking scene is laughable for anyone who's ever tried it in real life; you just can't kiss and suck someone's body parts like that without taking in a whole lot of water. Trust me. Oddly enough the only sexual interlude with any promise is the one in which March's character almost seduces Sondra (a giggly Lesley Ann Warren in a cheap blond wig). Unfortunately, that scene is truncated before the titillation factor kicks in.

Willis, for the most part, reigns in his larger-than-life Die Hard persona and actually makes it through the entire film without handling a gun. Blades gives the smart-ass cop role an ethnic twist and gets off some great lines. And March in varying states of undress is a definite pulse-quickener. But Color of Night can't seem to make up its mind when to take itself seriously and when to play tongue-in-cheek. The therapy group's broad caricatures and constant comic sniping are at odds with any attempts to build suspense. And while the film frequently indulges in bits of quirky humor that would be funny on their own, the overall effect is less one of comic relief than intrusion.

Forget about Basic Instinct (or for that matter Body Heat or anything by Hitchcock). Despite its pretensions Night's true colors come from Final Analysis's palette.


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