The first film in my third match-up in the second round of the 80s US Bracket comes from a big name director before she was a big name!
Written By: Kathryn Bigelow & Eric Red
Directed By: Kathryn Bigelow
Have you ever heard the phrase, “in the middle of two roads”? It’s not an easy phrase to get behind, and it’s not applicable to every situation, frankly it’s a boring turn of phrase, but it most definitely fits Near Dark. I came away from Near Dark with the idea stuck in my head that Kathryn Bigelow wasn’t sure what film she wanted to make. I was instantly reminded of the phrase I began this paragraph with, the road was right there in front of me, but I didn’t know which way Near Dark wanted me to follow. Near Dark never takes a solid step towards being a horror film or an action movie. it’s permanently stuck in limbo between both worlds.
Ms. Bigelow didn’t need to pick a genre, I would have been perfectly happy with a film that rode the rails between horror and action. But, Near Dark needed a story to make that possible, it needed something to keep me interested in. Near Dark needed solid ground to stand on, it didn’t need to define itself by picking a genre, but I needed more than a meandering, aimless picture. Because Bigelow allows the movie to roam at its own pace it never meshes its action, horror, and corny elements into a cohesive whole. Maybe I was expecting too much from Near Dark, but with a name like Kathryn Bigelow attached to the picture I think it was okay for me to expect as much as I did.
There are moments, such as the screenshot I chose, when Bigelow’s eye for a well framed shot comes into play. There are also some moments when her eye for filming a well thought out action scene enters the picture. But, Near Dark is missing something that, say, Point Break, had in spades, intensity. The action scenes in Point Break are filmed in a fine manner, you can tell they are being handled by the deft hand of an action filmmaker. They are also intense, dripping with a sense of now or never behind every moment. Near Dark falls well short of that mark, the action scenes in this Bigelow picture are laid out well enough, but they lack any intensity. They meander when they should drive for the goal line, they sit still when they should be the far too energetic puppy begging to go outside.
Stepping beyond the action, or anything to do with Bigelow as a matter of fact, brings us to the acting. Near Dark needed a lead actor to stand up to Lance Henriksen and Bill Paxton, and Adrien Pasdar was not that actor. At the best of times he slinks into a corner next to the presence of those two men and at the worst of times it’s easy to forget the movie is even about his character or that he is even on screen. I’m not one to cast hypothetical actors into roles, but I would have loved to have seen a stronger presence as the lead of Near Dark. Henriksen is wonderfully dark and Paxton is a psycho with a tinge of hamminess to his performance that is just right. Pasdar is a barely drivable minivan, when the film needed a loud muscle car in the lead.
Chalk another cult classic into the “Bill didn’t like it” pile, or maybe not. I didn’t love Near Dark like a lot of people seem to, but I did like certain aspects of it. I enjoyed seeing Bigelow put the groundwork of her directorial style into place, and I got a kick out of watching Henriksen and Paxton do their thing. But the rest of Near Dark left me out in the cold. I kept waiting for the story to tighten up, for the corniness, horror and action to blend together into a movie that screamed it was from Kathryn Bigelow. That moment never came, and while I wouldn’t call Near Dark a failure or a bad film I was left very disappointed by the film some people tout as the greatest vampire film of all time.