What good can be said of this 1987 blockbuster that, along with The Untouchables, catapulted Kevin Costner to stardom? Not a lot. The film does not age well at all. It is blocky, flat and some of the chase scenes are comically leaden. Costner running from computer room to computer room is Hardcastle and McCormick fare, and waiting for the printer you had in college to deliver the coup de grace is pretty damn funny. Director Roger Donaldson’s work (Cocktail, Thirteen Days, Dante’s Peak) is as pedestrian as it gets.
Then there is Will Patton.
As the bad guy, he is so over-the-top, it’s hard to stifle a laugh. His devotion to the Secretary of Defense (Gene Hackman) is akin to that of a coked-up Moonie. He almost looks hypnotized. And is he trying to sneak in some homoerotic longing for Hackman? Bob Duvall, sure. But Hackman? It’s crazy.
That said, this dinosaur can make you nostalgic for the days of actual sex appeal in pictures. Costner and Sean Young didn’t have a story, but they sure had chemistry, and in the days before VCRs gave way to the internet, that kind of sizzle was both bankable, a treat and a minor staple. Think Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981), Debra Winger and Richard Gere in An Officer and a Gentleman (1982), Jeff Bridges and Rachel Ward in Against All Odds (1984), Harrison Ford and Kelly McGillis in Witness (1985), Ellen Barkin and Dennis Quaid in The Big Easy (1986), Mimi Rogers and Tom Berenger in Someone to Watch Over Me (1987), Mel Gibson, Michelle Pfeiffer (and Kurt Russell) in Tequila Sunrise (1988), Pfeiffer and the Bridges brothers in The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989), even Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore in Ghost (1990).
It didn’t always work (check out Al Pacino with Barkin in Sea of Love (1989), hoo boy, Barkin looks like she’s kissing a hobo), Still, these were romantic and racy mainstream films that presented non-comedic stories but relied on the strong and compelling mutual sexual attraction of their leads. We just grew out of these kinds of movies and “sexual chemistry” became quaint, jettisoned for talky, quippy, modern rom-com dreck. 1992’s overt Basic Instinct, where Sharon Stone had to give a glimpse of her hoo-ha (trademarked) to keep folks interested was the end, and now, we are in mannequins-in-bondage land (Fifty Shades of Dull).
Don’t believe me? Take in 20 minutes of Passengers, a recent sci-fi flick that accidentally becomes reliant on real desire between Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. It’s ugly. These two couldn’t ignite enough heat to juice a GameBoy.
But I digress. No Way Out is awful, but also, a little sad.