Tag Archives: Nick Nolte

The Deep (1977)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Couple finds sunken treasure.

David (Nick Nolte) and Gail (Jacqueline Bisset) are a couple scuba diving off the Bermuda coast when they come upon a shipwreck and some artifacts left from it. They meet with treasure hunter Romer (Robert Shaw) who tells them it is a part of a Spanish treasure and works with them to try to unearth the rest of it. Problems arise when a shipwreck from World War II, the Goliath that had carried a cargo of medicinal morphine rests right next to it. To get at the Spanish shipwreck they must also go through the Goliath. Cloche (Louis Gossett Jr.), a local drug kingpin, wants to get his hands on the morphine, which could be worth a tidy sum of money and he tries to scare away Romer and the couple from continuing their diving activities, so Romer makes a deal with Cloche, but it backfires and turns the expedition into an intriguing game of underwater double-cross.

The film is based on the novel of the same name by Peter Benchley, who because of the success of his first novel Jaws, was given an almost immediate green light to turn this book into a movie. The inspiration for the story was based on the real-life shipwreck of the Constellation, which occurred off the coast of Bermuda in 1942. Great effort was put into the underwater footage, which lasted for 153 days and consisted of 8,895 dives.

Unfortunately despite the title and underwater storyline the film lacks depth where it counts, which is with the characters. The movie starts out immediately with the couple scuba diving and finding the treasure before we have any idea who these people are or why they are even there and no suitable backstory is ever given, which makes them come off as bland people lacking any real distinction and that you care little about. Character development is still an integral part of moviemaking and the main ingredient that gets the viewer hooked into a story and yet this film completely lacks it.

I’ll give credit to both Nolte and Bisset for doing their own diving and Nolte looks great with his bleach blonde hair almost like he’s a surfer dude, but his presence really wasn’t needed. Bisset, despite the extreme limitations of the weak script, still gives a far better performance and I felt she could’ve easily carried the film without him and I’m not just saying that because she looks great in her skimpy underwater gear, which was purportedly the whole reason why this film did well at the box office. Sure she’s beautiful, but she’s also quite talented.

Shaw should’ve added an extra boost in support, but he doesn’t. Normally his strong personality literally eats up the screen in any movie that he is in, but he’s stifled by the benign characterization and unable to rise above it. In retrospect he should’ve never have accepted the part until he had actually read the script, but because he was offered $625,000 plus a percentage of the profits, he took the role before the script was even written and hence the whole problem.

Gossett is weak as the bad guy and is not seen enough to create any genuine feeling of menace. The segment where he and his cronies try to ‘terrorize’ Bisset by performing some very clichéd type of black magic voodoo on her is almost laughable. The only actor that is actually good here is Eli Wallach and it is a testament to his superior thespian abilities that even though he was straddled with a pointless, bit role he was still able to own every scene that he is in anyways.

The film’s only interesting moment, which apparently took 1,080 hours to shoot, is when a pack of grey sharks converge for an eating frenzy and get tangled up in the air hoses of the crew, but even this becomes unintentionally funny because every time one of the sharks move an air hose the crew is forced to suddenly jump up in the water making them look quite literally like a puppet on a string.

The script desperately needed some added element as the concept is too basic and one-dimensional.  Watching one dull group of people trying to get at a treasure while another equally dull group of people try to stop them does not make for a riveting cinematic experience.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: June 17, 1977

Runtime: 2Hours 4Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Peter Yates

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video, YouTube

Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986)

down-and-out-in-beverly-hills

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Bum befriends rich family.

Jerry (Nick Nolte) has been living on the streets for years to the point that he has become used to it. One day his dog that is starving runs away from him and befriends a lady on the sidewalk who gives him food and eventually takes him home with her. When Jerry realizes that his pet is gone he panics and goes throughout Beverly Hills on a mad search. When he can’t find him he decides to drown himself in a pool of a posh household. Dave (Richard Dreyfuss) is the owner of the home who saves Jerry before he can kill himself and the two begin an awkward friendship. Jerry is even invited to move in with the rest of Dave’s family, which quickly sends the household out-of-control.

This film is a remake of the 1934 French classic Boudu Saved from Drowning and director Paul Mazursky nicely weaves the theme of the rich befriending the poor into the tapestry of Reagan’s ‘80s capitalism. The pace is breezy and non-confrontational and shows the wealthy as actually being the weaker of the two as they are much less able to adjust to harsh elements while trapped in their sterile surroundings and boring livelihoods simply so they can keep up the challenging pace of staying in tandem to the standards of society’s upper crust.

Midler has some funny moments as the snotty wife who doesn’t at all enjoy Jerry’s presence until he is able to give her a type of orgasm that she never had. Nolte is excellent as the bum in one of his best all-around performances. The scene where he eats dog food straight out of the bowl alongside the family’s pet Matisse (Mike the Dog) is an absolute keeper.

There are also some great supporting performances including ‘50’s rock icon Little Richard who plays Dave’s rich African American neighbor and is just as wealthy as the rest of the people in the neighborhood, but still feels badly discriminated against and doesn’t mind letting anyone he meets know about it. I also enjoyed that Mazursky stays with his ongoing theme of employing his own real-life therapist (Donald F. Muhich) into many of his movies. Muhich had already appeared as a psychiatrist in three of Mazursky’s earlier efforts and here appears again as a mental health counselor, but this time for the family’s dog.

The film gets a bit too serene and seems to blithely ignore many of the more serious elements of homelessness. Many scenes make it seem almost like they want to be on the streets and even enjoy it. It also would’ve been funnier had Dave been more a rich snob and his personality contrasted more severely with Jerry’s only for him to eventually come down to his level at the end, but overall I still found the whole thing to be amiably entertaining.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: January 31, 1986

Runtime: 1Hour 43Minutes

Rated R

Director: Paul Mazursky

Studio: Buena Vista Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

Grace Quigley (1984)

grace quigley1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Granny hires hit man.

Grace Quigley (Katharine Hepburn) is an elderly lady living alone on a limited budget who’s being forced out of her apartment due to having a pet bird, which her slumlord (Harris Laskawy) does not allow. She has nowhere to go and feels like ending her life, but has tried suicide before with unsuccessful results including swallowing a bottle of pills and having her stomach pumped, which she promised herself she would never go through again. Then she meets hired hit man Seymour Flint (Nick Nolte) and feels he’s the solution. He can not only bump her off, but her other elderly friends who no longer wish to go on as well. The problem is that Seymour doesn’t want to do it as he has grown attached to Grace and even starts calling her ‘mom’.

The first 60 minutes aren’t bad and even a bit humorous, but the final 30 brings in a weird story thread involving a cantankerous taxi driver (Christophe Murney) that seems thrown in simply to pad the running time. The ending, which was changed from the one in the original cut, is flat and helps to make this potentially tart black comedy a misfire.

Hepburn herself is awesome. She plays against type as she is usually a forceful and independent minded character, but here is much more vulnerable and sympathetic. Her shaking/wobbling head, which became an issue and even a distraction during her later years, is strangely not as apparent. Nolte is okay, but his character is wracked with psychosomatic quirks that are too silly and it would’ve been more fun had the character been played straight as a typically cold, soulless hit man who only softens after his friendship with Grace.

There are a few funny moments with my favorite being the striptease that Seymour’s hooker girlfriend (Kit Le Fever) does in front of Grace’s elderly and shocked friends. The running gag of people getting bloody noses every time they feel guilty does not work and the bloody nose that Hepburn’s character gets almost looks like a giant bug coming out of her nostril. The climatic chase involving five hearses careening down the city’s streets is forced although the slow motion shot of one of them driving into the New York harbor merits a few points.

The idea that people would want to die simply because they are old just doesn’t ring true especially since these folks still had their health and friends (at least with each) and were not bound to a wheelchair. There are many seniors who enjoy their golden years and still excited about life and yet the film doesn’t balance itself by portraying any of those. The attempt at showing the more serious side of aging by having Grace take Seymour on a tour of a rest home exposes little and ultimately helps makes the film’s potential social statement weak and simplistic.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Alternate Title: The Ultimate Solution of Grace Quigley

Released: October 2, 1984

Runtime: 1Hour 28Minutes (VHS Version)

Rated PG

Director: Anthony Harvey

Studio: Cannon Film Distributors

Available: VHS