By Richard Winters
My Rating: 4 out of 10
Daryl (William Hurt) is a nighttime janitor at a large Manhattan office building. He spends his otherwise lonely existence obsessing over a local news reporter Tony Sokolow (Sigourney Weaver) and records every news broadcast she is in and watches them each night when he gets home. Then a murder occurs in his office building and Tony covers it for her program. Daryl tries to use his inside knowledge to get closer to Tony, but is reluctant to tell her all the information he knows since he fears that it was his friend Aldo (James Woods) who committed the crime.
Hurt, who usually plays the intellectual type, does well here in the low-key role. Weaver is also excellent doing what she does best which is playing a tenacious no-nonsense woman who can take care of herself. My favorite part with her is when she is accosted by a couple of men with guns, but doesn’t scream, keeps her composure, and manages to get away.
The romantic angle is the film’s strong point. Tony’s on-camera interview with Daryl when she tries to get more information out of him, but he instead gushes about his undying love for her is funny. It is refreshing that when Daryl tells Tony about how he obsesses over her she doesn’t freak out and consider him a stalker, but instead is charmed by it. The two use each other for their own purposes, but the viewer is giving the impression that these are genuinely nice people who just have very contrasting personalities and approaches, which is what makes the budding relationship interesting. However, having them go to bed together and confirm their affections for each other seemed anti-climactic as it was more intriguing wondering if Tony really was starting to have feelings for Daryl, or just using him to get information and the film should have stayed at this level until the very end.
The mystery portion gets lost in the shuffle. The film is slow with very little tension. There are a few good action moments, but there needed to be more. The scene where Daryl almost gets crushed in a trash compactor had definite potential, but needed to be played-out longer. The part where he and Tony are attacked by a dog is very intense, but the climatic sequence where Daryl is chased by the killer through some horse stalls is certainly slick and well-shot, but it comes too late and I had already become bored and detached with it. The identity of the killer was a definite surprise, but it is also a bit preposterous and a little too convenient in the way it somehow manages to tie all the characters into it especially Tony.
Director Peter Yates does some excellent on-location shooting of New York City especially with the crowded streets and neighborhoods as well as Central Park, but the musical score is sparse and lacking. There is a pleasing jazzy score near the beginning that has a nice easy going beat to it, but then outside of a few tense moments there is nothing. This creates a film that is too quiet. Adding an urgent score could’ve helped make it more compelling, or at the very least given it more energy and personality.
There are a lot of familiar faces in supporting roles, but the majority of them are wasted. Morgan Freeman and Steven Hill as the police investigators who banter endlessly
with each other are dull and useless. Kenneth McMillan as Daryl’s handicapped father is dynamic, but pointless to the story as a whole. Christopher Plummer is always reliable, but he has done better. James Woods is good because he is a master at playing unhinged characters and I liked the casting of Irene Worth as Tony’s mother simply because she looked almost exactly like what Sigourney would end up looking when she reaches that age. This is also a great chance to see Pamela Reed in an early role as Daryl’s fiancée.
The film ends up biting off more than it can chew and the idea of mixing a cutesy romance with a murder mystery doesn’t gel and leaves a sterile effect in both areas.
My Rating: 4 out of 10
Released: February 13, 1981
Runtime: 1Hour 43Minutes
Director: Peter Yates
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Available: VHS, DVD, Netflix streaming