Color of Night (1994)
Color of Night (1994)

Genre: Mystery and Thriller Running Time: 2 hrs. 19 min.

Release Date: August 19th, 1994 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Richard Rush Actors: Bruce Willis, Jane March, Ruben Blades, Lesley Ann Warren, Scott Bakula, Brad Dourif, Lance Henriksen, Kevin J. O’Connor, Andrew Lowery, Kathleen Wilhoite

 


 

M

ichelle (Kathleen Wilhoite), a deeply disturbed, hateful, bitter, suicidal woman, visits her Manhattan shrink, Dr. Bill Capa (Bruce Willis), to vent about her many problems. In the blink of an eye, she darts out the window of his high-rise office, creating quite the mess on the pavement below. It’s the first and last time Bill is able to see bright red, as the traumatic event reaffirms his colorblindness.

The incident leads to a lawsuit, but Bill clearly isn’t to blame. “Don’t run away because of one treatment failure,” advises his friend, as Capa explains that he’s heading to Los Angeles – but not to hide from this latest tragedy. He joins fellow therapist Bob Moore (Scott Bakula), reluctantly sitting in on a Monday night group session that Moore is conducting, involving nymphomaniac Sondra (Lesley Ann Warren), gender-crisis-suffering Richie, insensitively sarcastic painter Casey (Kevin J. O’Connor), perpetually mourning Buck (Lance Henriksen), and obsessive-compulsive attorney Clark (Brad Dourif). The hours-long concourse seems disorganized and unhelpful, especially since few of the patients are open and honest, and a couple are prone to spontaneous physical outbursts.

That evening, the two psychoanalysts drive to Bob’s enormous mansion – a modern marvel of architecture and security. Bill admits that he’s given up on his profession, no longer believing in the validity or the effectiveness of helping people. And Bob reveals that he’s been getting threats for about two months now, likely from one of the Monday night clients. But he’s certain it’ll blow over. Unfortunately, he’s wrong – and he pays for it with his life when a shadowy figure in a black raincoat attacks him in his office, stabbing him more than 30 times. Snarky Lieutenant Hector Martinez (Ruben Blades) heads up the investigation, and Bob’s brief meeting with the five primary suspects could provide clues about the killer. “Usually a colleague will offer to take over the group, continue the treatment.”

“You’re in L.A. Everybody needs a lawyer.” Blades easily steals the show, brandishing extreme cynicism and disregard for both civility and standard procedures – all while maintaining a chirpiness and a wry smile. He’s not a great character – or even thoroughly original – but he adds quirkiness to an otherwise dully straightforward setup. He’s a high point in the murder/mystery premise, which isn’t complex or absorbing enough to sustain a full film. And so, about halfway through, a romance develops involving Rose (Jane March), a mysterious woman who seeks out a date after getting in a minimal fender-bender with Bill. This rapidly transforms into a series of erotic encounters, ranging from the pool to the shower to the kitchen to the bedroom, augmented by the typical musical twangs of ’90s sex scenes.

Once the sex montages subside (rather abruptly, before taking a bit of a break), the mystery reappears, though something is up. Rose seems to be playing more than one role, manipulating others alongside Bill with her seduction tactics – which means it might not be one of the five clients responsible for Moore’s brutal slaying (though there aren’t that many characters in the picture). Curiously, the possible suspects don’t slowly die off until only one remains; instead, they continue to divulge pieces of information to make them all seem capable of the rage necessary to butcher their doctor. And at one point, there’s even a destructive car chase action scene.

But the continual shifting of tones and genre conventions doesn’t add suspense; it merely drags out an overlong running time that isn’t in a rush to get to the big reveal. In many ways, “Color of Night” is trying to copy “Body Heat” and “Basic Instinct” (and, to a lesser degree, “Fatal Attraction”), with a twisty murder premise fused with eroticism – but with less creativity and unpredictability. In fact, with the slowness of the revelations, much of it becomes guessable too soon – helping the climax to feel outrageous and even farfetched, despite the fitting cinematic oddness of it all.

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10