'80s Movie Month: "Against All Odds" Review

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures

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'80s Movie Month: "Against All Odds" Review

Rating: R (profanity, sexuality, drug use, and violence)
Length: 128 minutes
Release date: March 2, 1984
Directed by: Taylor Hackford
Genre: Action/Adventure/Crime

Terry Brogan (Jeff Bridges) is a star football player who has seen better days. Football is a sport that lends itself to youth and those who are able to recover from injury quickly, because no labor laws prevent a team from ruthlessly cutting an injured player from the roster. This is exactly what happens to Brogan, who is forced to retire due to an injury. He needs a new career and considers becoming a private detective when he is offered a job by notorious gambling magnate Jake Wise (James Woods).

Wise offers Brogan a large sum of money to toddle down to Mexico and find his wayward lover Jessie (Rachel Ward), who happens to be the daughter of Mrs. Wyler (Jane Greer), the owner of the team that just cut Brogan. He approaches Mrs. Wyler in a last-ditch attempt to get back on the team to no avail. However, she offers him an equally handsome sum of money to find Jessie without telling Jake. Now Brogan is completely intrigued and flies off to Mexico, where he quickly finds the beautiful Jessie and falls for her.

They explore Mexico together as their feelings for each other deepen, but the fun comes to a quick and nearly fatal end. They are being followed, but are so wrapped up in each other that they don't realize it. Jessie returns to Los Angeles because she fears for her life, and a lovesick Brogan follows, unsure if he will turn her over to Mrs. Wyler or Wise. A series of double crosses and plot twists follow, which makes Brogan question all of the friendships and alliances he thought he had, including the one he forged with Jessie. She might be playing him, just as he was playing her in Mexico by not telling her that he had been hired by two different parties to find her. This leads to a whole heap of trouble that could end very badly for everyone involved.

The film is a loose remake of the 1947 film "Out of the Past" starring Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas as two-thirds of a love triangle. "Against All Odds" recreates the love triangle and betrayal of the original but gives it a big makeover in order to make it more palatable to a modern crowd. It still has many of the same film-noir elements that made the original such a good movie, but with a much shinier veneer and a car racing scene to boot. It also amps up the steaminess of the love scenes because in 1984, nearly all movies of this genre had to have a love scene. Director Taylor Hackford even gives a winking nod to the original film by casting Jane Greer as Jessie's mother. Greer played the femme fatale role in "Out of the Past," so it seems only fitting that she should play a new version of the femme fatale who is older, wiser, and much more ruthless.

One of the biggest differences between the two films is how deep and passionate the relationship between the two protagonists goes in "Against All Odds." Bridges and Ward have fantastic chemistry that makes the audience truly believe that these two are falling in love, even as they don't trust each other. One could backstab the other at any given moment and ruin what they have, but neither one seems able to peel himself or herself away from the other long enough to care. It's a reckless, all-consuming affair that puts both their lives in danger, and Bridges and Ward sell it fantastically. The love scenes are numerous and have plenty of heat, as if Hackford realizes he had two of the hottest stars on the planet at the time and wanted to showcase them together. Both were at the height of their youthful popularity, which no doubt contributed to the confidence they seem to have with the script and with each other.

Though Bridges and Woods are good in their roles, it is Woods who nearly steals the movie out from under them. He has always been a master of his craft, so it should be no surprise that he nails his part in this film. In 1984, the villain in a movie was often still a moustache-twirling plotter who was always obviously the bad guy. In "Against All Odds," Woods is painted as the bad guy, but there are layers. He seems to have true feeling for Jessie and struggles with some of his more nefarious decisions. He takes what could have been a basic love story and elevates it despite having only a supporting role. For Woods' performance alone, "Against All Odds" is worth a watch.

Rating: 3 out of 5