Michael Cimino’s Desperate Hours, despite only really being a servicable home invasion/hostage thriller, still has a lot of fun with it’s two leads, brash sociopath Mickey Rourke and even brasher estranged family man Anthony Hopkins. Based on a creaky old Humphrey Bogart film, Cimino obviously vamps up the violence and eroticism that simmers beneath it quite a bit, and when you have Rourke as your antagonist you know it’s not going to be anywhere near a relaxed affair. He plays Michael Bosworth, a dangerous felon on the run with two other goons, his volatile brother (Elias Koteas) and another creepy lowlife (David Morse). He crashes into the home life of Tim Cornell (Anthony Hopkins) a boorish father visiting his wife (Mimi Rogers) and children. The film mainly takes place inside the house, as the creep factor rises along with the threat of blaring violence which we know will come, made all the more likely by the growing police presence outdoors, and the tensions of everyone involved, threatening to snap at any moment. Rourke walks a tightrope between amiable and unstable, a man sure of himself, who always gets his way, and is capable of bad, bad things if he feels he won’t. Hopkins plays Cornell as a man used to being in control, but his inability to hold his family together is made worse by the gang’s arrival, rubbing salt in an already festering wound. Cimino has a brawny style to his violence, a trademark that’s seemingly born of both De Palma and Peckinpah, rich bloody gun battles and accentuated slow motion death scenes. Most of the film is held back, but the flood gates do eventually open and action hounds will get what they came for. Watch for Lindsay Crouse, Kelly Lynch, Shawnee Smith, James Rebhorn and Dean Norris as well. Not groundbreaking in the least as far as thrillers are concerned, but still an entertaining little piece made memorable by Rourke and Cimino’s ever interesting pairing.
Remakes are rarely a good idea, particularly if you’re a semi defrocked filmmaker and your headliners are Mikey Rourke who’s self-infliction was becoming more rampant in the late 80’s and early 90’s and a pre-SILENCE OF THE LAMBS Anthony Hopkins who’s star was on the fade. Back all of that up by remaking a seminal Bogart film and releasing it to critical annihilation and an uninterested box office and we are left with a film that doesn’t find its audience until decades later.
Michael Cimino’s DESPERATE HOURS is a remarkable film. It’s angry and brooding, wonderfully shot by Doug Milsome, and features two fierce performances from Rourke and Hopkins. Mickey Rourke gives one of the finest performances of his career as Michael Bosworth whose freakishly high IQ wrapped along with his sociopathic tendencies makes for a fantastic villain and a very showy performance from Rourke.
Rourke is an escaped murderer on the lamb, he holds up in Hopkins’ house, where his family gets held captive by Rourke and his two lackeys. Hopkins slowly pits Rourke’s paranoia and anxiety against him and his crew, slowly manipulating and faking them out at every turn. Seeing Rourke and Hopkins go head to head in a fight between alpha males is worth the price of admission alone.
We all know about the rise and fall of Michael Cimino, and while the tide has completely turned on HEAVEN’S GATE, Cimino’s back catalog is more than deserving of being revisited. DESPERATE HOURS isn’t a perfect film, but for anyone who loves dark and brooding films, this film is perfect for you.