Pacific Heights * *
Director: John Schlesinger.
Screenplay: Daniel Pyne.
Starring: Michael Keaton, Melanie Griffith, Matthew Modine, Laurie Metcalf, Mako, Carl Lumbly, Dorian Harewood, Luca Bercovici, Tippi Hedren, Jerry Hardin, Miriam Margoyles, Hal Landon, Jr, Tracey Walter, Dan Hedaya, Beverley D’Angelo.
Having such good films under his belt like “Midnight Cowboy” and “Marathon Man”, director John Schlesinger is no slouch when it comes to crafting a quality drama or suspense. However, with an irritatingly underpar cast, this is not one of his finer efforts.
Young couple Patty (Melanie Griffith) and Drake (Matthew Modine) purchase a Victorian home in San Francisco. They fix it up and rent one of the apartments to fast-talking businessman Carter Hayes (Michael Keaton) unaware that he is in fact, a sociopathic swindler.
When this film was released in 1990, I actually enjoyed it. I was 12 years old. Looking at it now, I have to admit that my critical faculties had not kicked in then. There’s no denying that it’s a well crafted suspense yarn but it’s also ludicrously plotted. The fault doesn’t lie with Schlesinger though, in fact, he does really well handling the tension and suspense. The fault lies with the unintelligible script. Would this stereotypically disturbed character really waste his time, being no more than an inconvenience by drilling holes in the walls? Do disturbed sociopaths really sit watching static interference on TV, in a darkened room, while flipping a razor blades over their fingers? Methinks it’s all a little melodramatic. Keaton does his best sinister look with animated eyebrows, Modine needs his quiff trimmed and Griffith gives her usual one-note innocent, softly spoken, damsel in distress act. Three very limited actors with a very limited script. Schlesinger brings what he can to the table, but it’s not enough to overcome ineptitude.
Hitchcock would have had a field day with similiar material. Schlesinger tries his best to emulate the old master but he’s ultimately fighting a losing battle with a very limited cast.