Relationships in free fall? Lovers at each other's throats? If Judge Bill Gibron wanted to revisit dull interpersonal discord, he would have paged through his little black book and not bothered with this uninteresting indie flick.
Couples failing to connect. How novel.
Robert (Norman Reedus) and Mina (Missy Crider) are a couple on the verge of total collapse. He is a drinking, womanizing lout who seems directionless and disconnected. She sits around and complains a lot. Beth (Kathleen Robertson) and Daniel (Michael T. Weiss) have a similar disaster of a relationship. She is an adulterous dreamer who seems to think the answers to life lay somewhere just beyond the horizon…or in the bed of another man. He is a drunken loser who continuously laments the loss of his minor 15 minutes in the motion picture sun.
One night, Robert runs into Beth. The former lovers suddenly reconnect. Thus begins a torrid affair, and yet neither are happy. Robert still chases a paid escort who literally disappears one day, while Beth hopes that Daniel will dry out and reemerge as the man she once loved. Everyone soon learns that betrayal hurts a lot worse than the circumstances that caused the infidelity in the first place. They also find out that even when the light of day brings hope, it's not Until the Night that truths become self-evident.
Until the Night is a mess, a meandering, mean-spirited movie that doesn't know the point it wants to make. It offers characters so craven and unpleasant that we don't fancy spending any amount of time with them, and a narrative so nonsensical and shrill that it irritates by merely going through its uninviting motions. If you are the type of person who thrills at the less than successful lives of people who act petty, distant and bored, then bellyache nonstop over their poor, pitiful state in life, this movie will be your overflowing stein of bitter herb tea. On the other hand, if you enjoy true human emotion and personal interconnection on an intimate, insightful level, and effortless filmmaking that actually causes you to forget you're watching a movie, then steer clear of this self-indulgent nightmare. After viewing this 87-minute depression-fest, you may start sensing an unhealthy homicidal urge washing over your aesthetically bruised body.
Somewhere along the line, writer/director Gregory Hatanaka got some bad information about what makes for interesting cinema. Until the Night offers a litany of regrettable ideas that all seem employed as a means of hiding the overall lack of real creativity. Hatanaka needs to know that watching someone pound down highball after highball in endless mundane music montages is not valid characterization. Chain-smoking like a Sun City Center resident playing big-cash bingo is not the definition of a crucial dramatic undercurrent. Repeating shots over and over again is not artistic (or original, for that matter). And the hand-held camera is dead, murdered by The Blair Witch Project and countless other homemade hokum over the last five years. Besides, Woody Allen already made this movie a decade back. It was called Husbands and Wives, and it was infinitely more skillful and observant than this self-pitying sampling of filmic sludge.
Part of the problem here is in the casting. Gregory Hatanaka gets together a good group of actors, including Norman Reedus (The Boondock Saints, Blade II), Kathleen Robertson (Psycho Beach Party, Scary Movie 2), Missy Crider (Mulholland Drive, Frailty), Michael T. Weiss (Jeffrey, The Pretender), and Sean Young (Blade Runner, The Boost). But each one plays the most appalling, unappealing character imaginable. Reedus is a drunken asshole, Robertson is a philandering asshole, Crider is a whining asshole, Weiss is a drunken, unemployed asshole (in order to differentiate him from Reedus), and Young is…well, she's not much more than a cameo, which makes it kind of hard for the forgotten actress to get her ass-holiness on. Besides, all the men suffer from dirty boy complex in the most literal interpretation of said ideal. Reedus looks positively vile, oily hair pressed against an equally greasy face like he just finished a shift at Long John Silver's, while Weiss seems to be incorporating body odor and bile into Daniel's backstory.
That these individuals are mostly repulsive is one thing. But they are also morally vacant, so detached from any type of actual reality (only one main character works, while the rest either wander the streets or overindulge their nicotine/alcohol habits) that they appear to be functioning inside some kind of flaccid fever dream. Hatanaka never tries to connect them to recognizable elements and makes the mistake of using flashbacks and dream sequences without proper contextual set-up.
The result is a movie that misdirects its emotions, leaving the audience uncaring and uninvolved. There is no one here we want to champion, no character arc we want to follow or see through to the end. We could care less if Beth and Robert get together or just beat the crap out of each other. We don't value the relationships forged by these individuals, and worse, we often wonder what's kept these couples together for so long. In the end, we have a squandering of standard film philosophy, a movie that never wants the audience to participate in its passion. Maybe it's some new manner of mise-en-scene to treat your viewers like strangers in your own dramatic designs. Whatever the case, Until the Night fails to engage or entertain.
Pathfinder really pumps up the DVD release of this title, offering up contextual bonus features that unfortunately fail to deliver any additional depth to the movie. The deleted scenes are pointless, the commentary track is an exercise in sickening self-aggrandizement, and the biographies, trailers, and gallery are fundamental digital fodder. The 1.78: 1 anamorphic widescreen image is acceptable, and it has to be said that the movie does feel and look professional and well photographed (we can compliment cinematographer Yasu Tanida for that). On the sound side, the Dolby Digital Stereo 5.1 Surround is basic and not very vibrant. The lack of immersion is balanced out by the often excellent musical scoring by Colin Chin. In the end, we have a decent staging of a very lackluster motion picture.
It's possible that Until the Night may end up a true love-it or hate-it kind of film. Maybe you will witness the meandering nothingness of these character's loser lives and find something interesting or enlightening. Maybe you'll even identify with their self-centered metaphysical narcissism. Yet it's hard to fathom such a finding. At least from this audience member's vantage point, this is not a Night to remember, but to avoid.
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