Lost And Found 22: The Night Before
Mad Max: Fury Road is the best film ever made. Ok maybe that’s not true, let’s try this again. Mad Max: Fury Road is the best action film ever made. That may also be incorrect. Either way Mad Max: Fury Road is relentless fun that never stops to take a break from all the chaotic bizarre madness and entertains at a neck breaking speed. After the first viewing I thought I needed to see it on the big screen again immediately. It was time for another family cinema outing day. They suggested Pitch Perfect 2. I told them Mad Max or nothing else and that was that basically. (Pitch Perfect will have to wait…for now). Some previous weeks before my family watched John Wick. I was not able to go and so asked which one was the better film John Wick or Fury Road. Most agreed Fury Road was clearly superior but my uncle was convinced everybody had gone bonkers and as a result was left alone fighting for Mr. Wick. Anyway it was at this moment that I realised Mad Max was the most innovative action film I had seen since I dragged my mother to The Matrix back in 1999. Then that thought instantly lead me to think of another. Keanu Reeves has a pretty impressive track record for someone that cannot act. I mean I think Reeves can but the general perception is that he has the look of a star and that’s about it which I believe is pretty unfair. However, his films speak for themselves and this week I shall be doing the speaking for one of them which may be the best Reeves film you have never seen. This week we shall enter the strange and world of The Night Before.
Film: The Night Before
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Lori Loughlin, Trinidad Silva, Theresa Saldana and The P-Funk All-Stars
Director: Thom Eberhardt
Writers: Thom Eberhardt and Gregory Scherick
In 1984 director Thom Eberhardt found some success with the superb Sci-Fi horror Night of the Comet which has since gained a huge cult following due to repeat TV showings and midnight screenings at cinemas. However, Eberhardt didn’t direct again until 1988. Fellow screenwriter Gregory Scherick and Eberhardt wrote a bizarre script which was a cross between Martin Scorsese’s After Hours and Adventures in Babysitting. All they needed now was a young, talented cast to bring the script to life which came in form of Keanu Reeves, who was fairly unknown at the time but appeared in Youngblood, River’s Edge and several made for TV films. Also on board was model/TV star Lori Loughlin and producer extraordinaire Mark Davis agreed to score the project.
The story is Winston Connelly wakes up in a gritty looking alley dazed and confused about where he is and what has happened to him. We see through a number of flashbacks what has led to this point. Winston remembers slowly starts to remember that pretty and popular cheerleader Tara Mitchell agreed to go to the prom with him, but only after losing a bet. Winston is still more than happy to take her but the night of the prom turns into a disaster. Winston manages to get lost in the wrong side of Los Angeles, lose Tara, his wallet, keys, car and start a potentially deadly dispute with a local pimp called Tito.
Let’s get the bad stuff out the way. The problem with so many beloved eighties films, whether they are childhood favourites or new found gems, tends to be that so many have not dated very well. The Night Before suffers from the typical ‘suburban people take the wrong turn into the ghetto where the ethnics might kill them’ angle. Satire, which the film at times appears to use for comedy effect, would have been a much better road to go down. Many of the black and Latino characters only appear to mainly signify danger for our beloved middle class prom couple. Some may argue that it’s a comedy therefore it should be expected that caricatures will be used but one gets the feeling the film simply relies on them far too many times and there is no balance in its representations. Also it’s rather unfortunate because apart from being heavy on stereotypes and becoming maybe too silly towards the end what we have here is a charming, memorable film that is smarter than it appears to be.
The non-linear storytelling writers Eberhardt and Scherick use is very effective as from the very beginning the viewer is intrigued as to how the hell mighty dork Winston got himself into such a bad situation. As it cuts between Winston’s morning and his current situation we see some very well executed contrasts and comparisons of the events that have taken place and help Winston to regain his memory. For example when he orders coffee in a shabby cafe and it burns his tongue, both the waitress and his mother earlier that morning say virtually the same thing to him about being careful. There are also some delightful running gags, one of the highlights is Winston’s car being stolen and no matter which part of the area he ends up in he constantly hears the same ridiculous song being played by the thief whenever he drives past him. It should be mentioned that there is a bizarre yet welcoming appearance by George Clinton and his band the P-Funk All-Stars who provide a great deal of funk to the soundtrack which unfortunately is not available to buy anywhere.
In addition to all these great things though it is quite clear what the best thing is about the film and that is Reeves himself in a role that set him up perfectly to play Ted Theodore Logan in the Bill and Ted series in the following year. As mentioned before a lot has been said about Reeves acting abilities but I for one have always said that whatever he may lack in talent he more than makes up for with fitting his roles perfectly. Can you imagine anybody else in the role of Neo in The Matrix? His odd mannerisms, nervous movements and naive facial expressions are suited for the oblivious characters he is so regularly picked for and come across as more organic and realistic than any calculated method actors take. He’s a character actor with star quality and vulnerability that is not afraid to show his comedic side every now and then. The Night Before has some glaring problems but is definitely worth seeking out if only for the Pulp-Fiction-esque narrative, great soundtrack and Reeves under-appreciated performance.