Against All Odds (1984)


An unemployed football player (Jeff Bridges, Winter Kills) is hired to find the girlfriend (Rachel Ward, Fortress) of a shady nightclub owner (James Woods, Best Seller). Things get complicated when the athlete falls in love with the woman in question.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“He said the only way I’d get away from him would be to kill him.”

Truth be told, I’m always skeptical of remakes, especially remakes of great movies — wouldn’t it make more sense to try to fix a movie that got it wrong the first time? This remake of Jacques Tourneur’s legendary 1947 production Out of the Past, one of the best noir films ever made, is a pleasant surprise for a number of reasons.

At the risk of being considered sacrilegious, I have to admit that I like Against All Odds nearly as much as I like Out of the Past. Maybe it’s because I saw the remake first, or maybe it’s because as an ’80s kid, I have an easier time relating to the remake’s sensibilities. I really don’t know, but I feel the remake is pretty awesome.

 Directed by Taylor Hackford (An Officer and a Gentleman) from a script by Eric Hughes (White Nights), Against All Odds does a superb job updating the story to the ’80s. I thought all the changes made sense. I particularly liked how this version connects the main characters with one another. Furthermore, all the characters have been given clear motivations — the 1947 movie left many things unexplained.

I also loved the fact that the romance was amplified. Despite being a bona fide neo-noir, Against All Odds is first and foremost a love story. The love scenes are pretty steamy, and Jeff Bridges and Rachel Ward have insanely good chemistry. Their crazy, passionate love affair is believable — they are deeply flawed, but essentially good people, two misfit toys who unexpectedly find comfort and hope in each other’s arms.

The supporting cast complements Bridges and Ward outstandingly. James Woods is always a great heavy. It was fun to see veteran Richard Widmark as a corrupt politician. After all, he started his career as one of noir’s most unforgettable villains in the classic Kiss of Death. Athlete-turned-actor Alex Karras (Victor/Victoria) plays a football coach, Swoosie Kurtz (Dangerous Liaisons) plays a secretary who helps Bridges nail the bad guys and Dorian Harewood (Sparkle) plays Woods’s henchman.

Jane Greer, who played the unforgettable femme fatale in Out of the Past, plays Ward’s mother here. This isn’t a meaningless cameo. It’s in fact a pivotal supporting role that adds another layer to the story. Greer’s character, an unscrupulous land developer, is the key to understanding Ward’s character. The film does feature a “meaningless cameo” by Paul Valentine, who played a henchman in the 1947 film.

Phil Collins’s superb, Oscar-nominated title song is justly legendary. It’s a great song that perfectly captures the mood of the film — pay attention to the lyrics, the song adds a poignant postscript to the movie. French composer Michel Colombier (The Money Pit and The Golden Child) and American guitarist Larry Carlton (ex-member of the jazz group The Crusaders) are responsible for the incidental music.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

One could argue that Out of the Past has fewer flaws than Against All Odds (the remake does lose a bit of momentum during the second half), but that doesn’t mean that the remake is worthless (the 1947 movie isn’t perfect either). I love both movies for different reasons. Out of the Past is rightly considered a classic, but I feel Against All Odds is an unjustly unappreciated thriller. Color, 121 minutes, Rated R.

19 responses to “Against All Odds (1984)

        • I think I know about it, although I don’t remember seeing it. My favorite James Woods film is Best Seller with Brian Dennehy. I also liked his performances in Cat’s Eye, Once Upon A Time In America, The General’s Daughter and his narration for First Contact.

          Liked by 2 people

            • There was also a TV movie that Woods was in, I think it was called The Promise, where he gave a most remarkable performance as a severely mentally ill man whose brother (played by James Garner) must care for with great difficulty. It was a very sad story. I admired Woods’ bravery in bringing such a hauntingly troubled character to life, thus helping us all understand the pains of mental illness and how it can impact families. I can relate from personal experience.

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  1. Ha! Nice job. I love the hunky Jeff Bridges in this one. Rachel is gorgeous. Lots of eye candy in this one! I love James Woods–he had a good fifteen years where he played the smart bad guy to perfection. The scenery–there’s a lot to appreciate with the movie. I guess the plot was weak for me. Too cheezy. That’s okay. Good post.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I agree; I am usually highly skeptical about remakes. I wonder if it is generally better when the remake is viewed first, to give the film a more fair chance to stand on its own merits?

    I am really intrigued about what you said of how this film fleshes out the motivations of characters more. That’s one thing that always puzzles me about Out of the Past, though perhaps that is part of the film’s fascination. But I can never get my head wrapped around Jane Greer’s characters motivations. 🙂

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    • YES! I love Out of the Past, but I never understood the behavior of the characters. Why is Greer so evil? Why Kirk Douglas keeps taking Greer back? Why Mitchum is so infatuated with Greer? The remake does a good job explaining everything. And the explanations make perfect sense!

      Liked by 2 people

      • That is really impressive! I wonder if the writer of the remake always felt the same frustration about the original’s motivations, but finally got to give some explanations. That would have been nice as a writer to be able to do.

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