Against All Odds (1984)

Synopsis:

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

Reaction & Thoughts:

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 Out of the Past (1947), one of the best film noirs of the 1940s, is a pleasant surprise for a number of reasons.

At the risk of being considered sacrilegious, I have to admit that I actually 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 (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 all main characters with one another. Also, characters have been given clear motivations — the 1947 movie left many things unexplained.

I also loved the fact that the romance was amplified. Although 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 good, but deeply flawed people, two misfit toys that unexpectedly find 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.

And Jane Greer, who played the unforgettable femme fatale in Out of the Past, plays Ward’s mother here. It isn’t a meaningless cameo, it’s an important supporting role that adds another layer to the story. Greer’s character, an unscrupulous land developer, provides us with the key to understand Ward’s character. The film does feature a “meaningless cameo” by Paul Valentine, who played a henchman in the first film.

Phil Collins’s classic, Oscar-nominated title song is justly legendary. It’s not only a great tune, but the song perfectly captures the mood of the film — pay attention to the lyrics, the song adds a poignant postscript to the film. James Horner (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Titanic) wrote the incidental music.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

You could successfully argue that Out of the Past has less flaws than Against All Odds (the remake does lose a bit of momentum during the second half), but it doesn’t mean that the remake is bad (the 1947 movie isn’t perfect either). I just 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 movie. Color, 121 minutes, Rated R.

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12 responses to “Against All Odds (1984)

  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 2 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. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • 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 1 person

      • 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.

        Liked by 1 person

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