- Friday 6:59 pm ADST -
I was too tired to go to the supermarket to get a movie from their DVD vending machine, so I looked through the small collection at home (all of the other DVDs are packed away in storage) and fished out Witness (Dir: Peter Weir, 1985).
Not having seen it since its original theatrical release, I had forgotten how good a film it is.
Basically, it tells of a small Amish boy who witnesses a murder. Harrison Ford plays John Book, the Philadelphia Detective who's assigned to the case and, as he's getting a statement from the boy, we learn that the killer was in fact a police officer. Thinking that his police chief may be in on the murder, Book decides to spirit the boy and his mother back to their small Amish community in Pennsylvania in an effort to keep them safe while he plans how to deal with this corrupt segment of the force.
It's a classic hero's journey story whereby we see the protagonist in his natural world (the police precinct in Philly) who must travel outside of this world to a foreign land (Lancaster County, Pennsylvania) to deal with the forces of evil (the corrupt cops). A big portion of this film is devoted to how Book must curtail his violent big-city ways in order to fit in with the peaceful Amish community, and especially the family that has offered him refuge. There's a nice love story sub-plot going on, involving the boy's recently-widowed mother, who finds herself drawn to this policeman, and he to her.
By 1985, when this film was made, Harrison Ford could do no wrong. He was the Gary Cooper of the Eighties, having gone from the success of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises to the cult classic sci-fi Blade Runner, and this film marked a departure from the blockbusters we were used to seeing him in. He turns in a solid performance in this low-key film and it's a shame that he didn't do more movies along this line. I thought he was great in Mike Nichols' 1988 comedy Working Girl and it would have been interesting to see him do more light-hearted fare.
Witness is a great film and its screenplay is often cited in screenwriting books and classes. What starts off as a police procedural soon takes a turn before ending in a High Noon-style narrative where the hero must face-off against multiple enemies without much help.
It's a film that has much to do with looking, which makes its title so clever and all-encompassing, since it permeates throughout the entire movie. There is a lot of gazing going on, from Rachel, the Amish widow looking at Book the detective and vice-versa, from the Amish townspeople looking at this strange newcomer, from another man infatuated with Rachel, who views Book as a threat. People are always watching other people in this film.
And, like most films up until around 1998 (my theory), the scenes are lengthier and allowed to breathe.
Definitely recommended if you haven't ever seen it.
Picked up a copy of Richard Stark's Parker - The Hunter. Based on Stark's classic series of books (Richard Stark was a pseudonym of crime writer Donald E. Westlake) and illustrated by Darwyn Cooke, this graphic novel is wonderfully evocative.
Cooke's drawing style is sparse and visually atmospheric in a tale set in 1962 where we find the protagonist, known simply as Parker, going off on a vendetta against a criminal gang that left him for dead and took all the loot. This story has been filmed a couple of times before, first as Point Blank in 1967 starring Lee Marvin as Walker, and again in 1999 as Payback, with Mel Gibson as Porter. For some reason, Westlake stipulated that they couldn't use the name 'Parker' for the character. It wasn't until 2013 that we saw the release of Parker, starring Jason Statham as Stark's/Westlake's most famous character.
Anyway, back to Darwyn Cooke's adaptation. The composition of the artwork is great. No colour, beyond black, grey and green, and yet it almost leaps off the page.
Here's a sample;