Best Seller (1987)

Synopsis:

A mysterious hitman (James Woods, Salvador) wants a best-selling author (Brian Dennehy, Silverado) to write a book about his experiences as a henchman to a corrupt politician. At first, the novelist doesn’t believe the killer’s tales of deceit and murder, but he quickly changes his mind when the bodies start piling up around him.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“Anybody can kill anybody, even the President, remember?”

Confidently directed by John Flynn (Rolling Thunder and Out For Justice), Best Seller mixes classic film noir tropes with ’80s buddy formula quite well. I’m not going to pretend that this cold-blooded thriller doesn’t have a few problems because it does, but I liked the good stuff well enough to ignore the things that I thought didn’t work.

Best Seller is, above all, a tale of redemption. A twist of fate allows two men from opposite worlds to find inner peace. It’s quite cynical, but not entirely hopeless. The violence is not exploitative either — acts of cruelty are used to illustrate that we live in an unforgiven world where bad things could happen to anyone at anytime.

The most interesting thing about the movie is the relationship between hitman James Woods and writer Brian Dennehy. These top-notch actors create one of the unlikeliest movie couples you’ll ever see! Woods is psychotic and Dennehy is incorruptible, and they are the glue that holds the movie together. They also do a good job accentuating a major plot point — writer and criminal are two sides of the same coin.

The film was written by Larry Cohen, who is best known for helming many beloved B-movies (It’s Alive!, God Told Me to, Q – The Winged Serpent, etc.). Cohen occasionally wrote scripts for A-movies. This is, perhaps, the best of those screenplays. Finally, if you’re an electronic music fan, you’ll love Jay Ferguson’s (Gleaming the Cube and A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child) energetic music score.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Best Seller is an intense and interesting neo-noir with two great performances at its center. It’s really fun to see James Woods and Brian Dennehy try to upstage each other. The cast also includes George Coe (Kramer vs. Kramer), Victoria Tennant (Flowers in the Attic), Charles Tyner (Harold and Maude), Seymour Cassel (Rushmore), and real-life stuntman Larry Holt as a bodyguard. Color, 95 minutes, Rated R.

4 responses to “Best Seller (1987)

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