Posts Tagged ‘Nightmaster’

Kids’ Games

December 6, 2007

Nightmaster
Directed by Mark Joffe
1987

bakinakwa says:

More Nicole Kidman.  This time the year is 1987 and the film is Nightmaster, originally titled Watch The Shadows Dance.  It begins with an ominous introduction that incorporates ambulance sounds and a montage of industrial buildings and landscape.  This leads to more crazy 80s music, suddenly a guy does a flip and then, voila, Kidman with a paintball gun.  At this early point in her career, Kidman is becoming synonymous with unbelievable hair.  Over the course of 87 minutes we get some entertaining gymnastics and trampoline jumping, a fair amount of homo-eroticism, drug deals, murder and a half-assed love triangle between teach Sonia Spane (Joanne Samuel) and two of her students.  That’s right, odd is just the tip of the iceberg for this film.

This is a highly convoluted movie, an unnecessarily complex story for such a simple message.  The concept of students playing karate games in an abandoned warehouse by night is treated pretty well, but it’s not exactly fresh.  Probably wasn’t in ’87 either.  The script builds up some gentle mystery around “Deep Coup”, and a wheelchair-bound game maestro (it’s symbolism) enlivens the idea a bit, but not enough.  The lead actor, Tom Jennings, had some charisma as star student Robbie Mason, but he’s also kind of pouty and annoying.  Kidman does stand out in her scenes, making it obvious how she was eventually able to work her way out of the doldrums of roles like these.  There are pockets of humor and interesting ideas, but mostly it’s just an overly ambitious, awkwardly structured 80s film with very little to offer of truly memorable worth.  The ending is cute, if totally expected, with a pretty good final shot.  Only the love-triangle between Spane, Robbie and Kidman’s Amy Gabriel struck me as somewhat original.  It had the potential to be subversive, but director Mark Joffe’s decision to deal with it by suggestion and allusion kept it from making such an impact.

Like BMX Bandits, worth seeing for Kidman’s early performance, just don’t expect too much.

bakinakwa’s rating: 3 Stars

lakelia says:
 
Not bad, for a movie that wasn’t all that good. It didn’t have the charm of BMX Bandits, but its darker and less predictable plot kept me interested. Deep Coup, the late-night game of stealth, strategy, and paint-ball guns that the teenage characters play after school, seemed at first to be the sort of fantasy-adventure world where things might get too real before they saw it coming, where danger could sneak up on them. This story of “The Game” is intertwined with the story of their safe and structured, if overly driven, pursuit of excellence in gymnastics and martial arts. It’s here, though, that danger actually lurks. Their teacher has a dark side – drugs, obsession, rage. While this film could have turned into a warning against getting carried away with dangerous games, it became more of a thriller-as-cautionary-tale about that archetype of the charismatic, too-good-to-be-true leader, and the lonely, talented person who falls under his spell. Tom Jennings, the actor playing Robbie, was not exactly stellar, but I was moved by the pain that showed on his face when he saw what his teacher had done, when he still wanted to believe in the man, still wanted to save him.
 
Nightmasters had some decent entertainment value outside of all that heavier stuff, too. Deep Coup looked like a pretty fun game, for one thing; there were some good moments of banter between the main kids; and it still makes me shake my head and laugh to think about the pouty guy who was reluctant to call the police because they might shut down The Game, while his friend sits there bleeding, a knife sticking out of his shoulder. The last scene, although it was suspenseful and ultimately had a poignant climax, was far from perfect. There was a major continuity problem with Amy lying on the ground, maskless, then in the next cut standing up and pulling her mask off. And how the hell did she even live from that last fall, not to mention look so pretty and clean?
 
Oh well, the bad guy’s dead, the guy gets the girl, there’s been a pretty good helping of bad-assery, and we’ve all learned something – that’s what really matters, right?

lakelia’s rating: 3 Stars