Page 10-The Michigan Daily-Monday, October 12, 1987
Best among crime dramas
B Daniel Rosenberg
James Woods plays the "bad
guy." That's normal.
The bad guy is the hero. That's
There are no car chase scenes.
That's unheard of.
I can't even name a handful of
films about police and organized
crime that don't have a car chase
scene. But, Bestseller is one.
Bestseller is the story of a
cop/writer (Brian Dennehy) who has
a case of writer's block. His
problems are apparently solved when
a mob hitman (James Woods)
wishes to tell his story.
Unfortunately, not everyone wants
this particular book published. Aha,
Bestseller plays on old motifs: a
burnout cop/writer, a conspiracy
theory, a single man against th e
mob, the misfortunes of being a
witness. But let's face it, after 75
years of Hollywood, it's rather
difficult to still come up with some
But if you have to use an old
subject, then it must be treated
differently than before, and with
respect. That is, respect for the
audience. Respect means no silly
chase scenes, it means no
voyeurisitic sex to hold the attention
of the audience (or voyeuristic
violence for that matter), and it
means an ending which does not
insult the intellignece of the
audience. This is what director John
Flynn manages to do in Bestseller.
Who is John Flynn? And how
does a rookie top more than a half-
dozen experienced pros in the diluted
market of crime dramas? (The current
roll call of films on this subject:
The Big Easy, Someone to Watch
Over Me, No Way Out, The Whistle
Blower, The Rosary Murders,
andThe Fourth Protocal, and A
Prayer for the Dying). Despite it
being Flynn's first major directorial
job, he actually has been around the
business for some time. His
experience dates back to his work as
an assistant to Robert Wise inWest
Side Story and he has directed
smaller films throughout the decade.
So John Flynn knows the field. He's
In Bestseller, he's careful enough
not to preach (which wouldn't be
difficult to do in a film with a group
of morally lacking characters). He's
careful not to get sidetracked with
cheap attention getters, but he is
still able to not let a scene go by
without intoxicating his viewers
with stunning photography, a la
There are beautiful dresses, GQ
siuts, Ray-Ban sunglasses,
landscapes that look too good to
occur in nature, modern
multimillion dollar homes, and
enough hitmen around to turn any
exquisite setting into a nailbiter. Its
chic. Its cool. And so is James
Woods plays a man with a
mission. This well dressed, partly
psychotic hitman always seems to
get his man and he always seems to
get the girl. He sure is great to look
at, as if the film wasn't aesthetically
Intense is a good word to descibe
it. Woods dominates the film. The
main subject, the cop's book, is
forced to take a back seat to Wood's
quest for revenge. What an
accomplishment: turning a normally
distasteful character into a hero.
Obviously, this was director John
Flynn's idea all along. Use Woods.
He's come through before. He stole
the show in Salvador and rightfully
earned himself an Oscar Nomination.
Woods ought to get one here too, if
Hollywood can overlook the fact that
the film is fun.
Bestseller is fun, and that James Woods (left),who was nominated for an Oscar for his leading role in 'Salvador' and Brian Dennehy (right) star
shouldn't be taken as a criticism. in the newly released thriller 'Bestseller.'
Strangeways, Here We Come
For years, the Smiths have been
carrying the torch for all those
lonely adolescents and post-
adolescents that march behind them,
clutching diaries and tissues to their
breasts. Lead vocalist Morrissey is
the quintessential "sensitive guy"
and his fans latch on to him like he
is their own personal guru of
depression. Not to be callous, but it
does get a little tiresome. As
Morrissey himself admits, "The
TANN4N SAL N
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story is old - I know."
Strangeways, Here*we Come is
remarkably unaffecting considering
the morbid topics of these songs.
Dead rock stars, the demise of a
dancer, a "Girlfriend in a Coma,"
suicide, and still more suicide make
up Morrissey's world. But a self-
pitying; self-deprecating smugness
in his voice shields us from his
This is Morrissey's ultimate
weakness - failure to transmit
honest emotions to the listener.
Jackson Browne, another songwriter
who specializes in this brand of of
confessional lyrics, has never had
this problem. Where the Smiths
seem to be content to shock us into
emotion: by yelping about "be-;
spattered remains," Browne actually
gets personal enough to let .the
audience share in his sorrow.
The guitar of Johnny Marr is and
always has been the bright side of
the Smiths. His stinging, rocking
licks almost save "Paint a vulgar
Picture," cover up the shortcomings
of "Death at One's Elbow," and
transform "Death of a Disco Dancer'
from a morose piece of sentimental
sludge into a bristly aural assault on
par with Richard Thompson's recent
records. The word is that Marr has
left the band to pursue his o w d
career, definitely something to loolp
"Stop Me if You Think You've
Heard This One Before," is the all
too appropriate title of side one's
closer. The truth is, Morrissey
- Mark Swartz
The Michigan Daily
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