Jeff Goldblum is having a rough time. His wife is cheating on him and he hasn’t slept for days. In the middle of one sleepless night he takes his friend Dan Aykroyd’s advice to goto the airport for a quick trip to Vegas to have a fun time that will hopefully shake him out of his depression.
However, once he parks his car he finds himself encountering beautiful jewel smuggler Michelle Pfeiffer, who happens to be running for her life. Goldblum is the only one who can help her.
Now the pair will traverse the late night streets of Los Angeles, meet an assortment of odd, rich and deadly folks who want the goods Pfeiffer is carrying. It all turns out to be more excitement than Goldblum ever planned for.
The last time I watched Into the Night had to have been in the mid-80’s on cable. Rewatching it decades later I realized why I never felt compelled to revisit it. It all sounds like it could be an engaging, quirky offbeat yarn with two charismatic stars. A strange and underseen film from Landis, that has gotten lost amongst his more popular films. And while it certainly qualifies as that, unfortunately it’s never as suspenseful or funny as it tries to be. I wish I like it much more.
Watching it today, I thought it came off as much more of an unusual movie than when I first saw it. It’s almost like it could be a companion piece to After Hours, another all-night adventure movie that came out around the same time. Maybe you could even toss in Adventures in Babysitting on the playbill as well. I guess the ‘All Night’ adventure idea was a popular premise in the mid-80s.
Into the Night now looks like a forgotten ‘bridge’ film for many involved. A movie that Goldblum had done before he really started to hit his stride with The Fly the following year. A movie that Pfeiffer would do in the years between Scarface and her more attention-getting roles in The Witches of Eastwick and Married to the Mob that would help send her to the big time.
When these two stars talk about their careers today I don’t think Into the Night gets mentioned much. They probably get asked more about their earlier work. Like Goldblum’s brief appearance in Annie Hall and Pfeiffer’s starring role in Grease 2. I have a feeling Into the Night gets breezed over in their filmographies.
For director John Landis, Into the Night is a forgettable follow-up film after the tragic events of his experience on Twilight Zone: The Movie and his box office hit Trading Places. The film that during shooting he would learn he was going to trial for manslaughter and the famed ‘Twilight Zone Trial’ would put his career on hold.
Landis might have had fun making Into The Night. The movie is crammed with endless cameos of fellow filmmakers and friends of Landis (much the same thing he did on Beverly Hills Cop 3). Everyone from David Cronenberg to Amy Heckerling to Rick Baker to Lawrence Kasdan to Jonathan Demme to Jack Arnold to Jim Henson to Don Siegel and many more pop up unexpectedly in tiny roles.
It’s a ‘Who’s Who’ of filmmakers. Film geeks will love spotting all the cameos, while casual audiences won’t have a clue as to ‘who that person is’ and will need a cheat sheet to point them out. and he must have had a grand time with them on the set.
Yet, unlike his earlier efforts where Landis brought a vibrancy to his movies, here it feels more like he was running on cruise control. The film plays as much more routine and uninspired than you’d expect. Almost like we’re the sleepless Goldblum just listlessly going through the motions of his day. We’re watching and there’s really no standout memorable things that happen to perk us up. Perhaps Landis thought the cameos would help things out, but the ‘Where’s Waldo’ game of filmmakers is really the main thing that ends up being memorable about Into The Night.
Goldblum is like a numb sleepwalker throughout, which works for his character I have to say. I think the idea is how humorously ironic it is that he’s so blasé when thrust into these threatening strange situations and at times it is amusing.
Pfeiffer is fine. She looks great, but I never thought her character was particularly likable or sympathetic. Certainly not enough for me to accept Goldblum going to such lengths to help her. Maybe her brief nude scene is meant to be the inspiration for that.
There are very quirky run-ins with bizarre characters, like Pfeiffer’s brother Bruce McGill who’s an Elvis impersonator. That’s the gag. The batch of four Iranian hitmen (one of which Landis plays) are meant to ignite not only a threat, but laughs as well with some of their buffoonish behavior. It didn’t work for me.
The longer things go on the less interesting the story becomes. Things get much more convoluted for its own good. More and more characters pop up and things never outrageously escalate to a climax any more much further than when we first met Pfeiffer running from the hitmen in the airport.
Things look like they’re about to kick into highgear when David Bowie arrives as yet another hitman who has gotten involved in this story of smuggled emeralds, but he soon disappears from the story. His role is way too brief.
Really the most thrilling moment is a quick car chase in a parking deck that a cabbie takes the pair on. There is a suspenseful confrontation in a hotel room, but it’s a long way to go to get to that. Even the airport climax seems rushed and not very satisfying.
There’s a lot of recognizable actors in this, along with those cameos who film geeks will have a ball pointing to. Granted there are a few entertaining moments that even all these years later I still remembered. Landis must of enjoyed a stop at a studio where a B-movie is being filmed and incorporating a Hollywood backlot into this for some meta moments. He even manages to feature Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein into a scene.
In the end it doesn’t amount to very much. Into the Night has the impression like it could be a hidden underrated gem of a movie. One that most folks had never heard of, and then basing on the cast, the director, the premise, going into it expecting it to be a pretty good time.
That’s how this should have worked. Unfortunately, it’s a movie that doesn’t warrant much to remember about. It’s fine, but there’s nothing to rave about it. I realized why I never rewatched it until now.
The music by B.B. on the soundtrack is really good at least.