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Color of Night Reviews

Cult favorite Richard Rush (THE STUNT MAN) returns to directing after a 14-year hiatus with this sleazy, generally embarrassing Hitchcock knock-off. Psychoanalyst Bill Capa (Bruce Willis) loses the ability to perceive the color red after a patient (Kathleen Wilhoite) kills herself during a session. Depressed and disillusioned, he visits old chum Bob Moore (Scott Bakula) in LA, where he has a successful practice of his own and a fancy house equipped with high-tech security gizmos. Bob explains that he has received death threats, probably from one of the members of his Monday therapy group. When Bob is brutally murdered, Bill decides to look after his house and patients. The group is straight from central casting: there's Sondra (Lesley Ann Warren), the blonde nymphomaniac; Clark (Brad Dourif), the obsessive compulsive lawyer; Casey (Kevin J. O'Connor), the sarcastic sadomasochist artist; Buck (Lance Henriksen), the depressive ex-cop mourning a dead wife and child; and mysterious Richie, a teenage drug addict with "gender identity issues." In a seemingly unrelated incident, Bill gets rear-ended at a red light by waif-like Rose (Jane March). Before long, they're having sex: in the pool, in bed, in the shower, on the table. Meanwhile, Richie's brother and legal guardian, Dale (Andrew Lowery), is trying to pull him out of his court-ordered therapy. Under pressure from belligerent Detective Hector Martinez (Ruben Blades) to identify the killer, Bill researches Richie's past, finding evidence of molestation at the hands of his previous shrink. Bill interrogates the other patients in their homes, and they variously implicate and provide alibis for each other. Curiously, everyone except Richie is involved in a satisfactory sexual relationship; their partners all look or sound suspiciously like Rose. Casey is murdered before he can give Bill some information, and the sight of his blood snaps Bill out of his colorblindness. A tell-tale photo in Bob's journal reveals to the group that they are all involved with the same woman; Richie flees quietly during the ensuing hysteria. Bill visits Richie's first shrink, bullying his widow (Shirley Knight) into telling him that Richie is dead--but he had a sister named Rose. Rushing to Dale's workshop, he finds Rose, dressed as "Richie," with her hands nailed to a chair. She's been viciously beaten by Dale but is nevertheless able to recite her complex psycho-history and explain all the loose ends. In the finale, Bill is shot with a nail gun, pelted with an armoire, choked by a belt, trapped in a cage, and threatened with a buzz saw before he manages to subdue Dale and save Rose from falling off a tower. Nothing in the film is as interesting as the saga of Bruce Willis's penis, which made a very brief appearance in the original cut screened in Europe, but had to be tucked away in order to secure an R rating from the MPAA, whose absurd double standard governing male nudity is becoming an industry joke. (Ensuing publicity helped the film gross $20 million in its domestic theatrical run.) The footage (inchage?) was "restored," along with somewhat more graphic sex sequences, on the inevitable "Director's Cut" video, which boasts "15 Extra Steamy Minutes" (thus inflating the film to the inexcusable length of 140 minutes). The additional minutes supply nothing in the way of much-needed cohesion or wit. Screenwriter Matthew Chapman, director-writer of STRANGERS KISS (1984) and HEART OF MIDNIGHT (1989), a pair of inoffensive "movie-movie" homages to Kubrick, rises to the level of his incompetence in tackling Hitchcock. The screenplay piles unbelievable plot points on top of baldly stereotyped characters reciting humorless, uninflected monologues, and what isn't telegraphed is inexplicable. The red-blindness itself is thematically pointless and adds nothing to the story; it's only there to remind us of VERTIGO and SPELLBOUND. The director, and a few of the performers, make every effort to play against the material, hoping it will somehow emerge as sophisticated camp, but their efforts are futile. Willis, on the other hand, tries hard to underplay and take the role seriously, but he's constantly sabotaged by the script, which, in addition to putting him through car chases and Rambo-style action sequences, has him describe one patient as "a real nut case" (prognosis: "Don't fuck with him"). The real mystery here is why Rush, who has made some fascinating pictures in the past, chose this vehicle for his comeback. He gives this film energy and visual panache (especially in the hyperkinetic finale), but it's not nearly enough to compensate for the dense, fatuous plot. (Extensive nudity, adult situations, sexual situations, profanity, graphic violence.)