Although a bit too tricky and self-conscious, THE HARVEST is a stylish exercise, not to be taken too seriously, in neo-film noir, set in a movie Mexico even more sleazy than that of TOUCH OF EVIL.
Hack screenwriter Charlie Pope (Miguel Ferrer) is sent to sunbaked Costa Azul by his crass Hollywood producer Bob Lakin (Harvey Fierstein), to do research and a final rewrite on a script Pope has been nursing along for three years. Lakin's looking for saleable junk with a new angle, but Pope is
looking to "find the truth about a story I thought I had made up," about the murder of a visiting American. Pope looks up the debauched Steve Mobley (Tim Thomerson), who sends him to the dead man's apartment; the landlord (Mike Vendrell) warns him against investigating what was, in fact, only one
in a continuing string of murders. Pope then checks out the gay bar the dead man frequented, where he meets the sexy Natalie (Leilani Sarelle Ferrer) and the softly menacing Noel Guzmann (Anthony John Denison). Guzmann tells Pope the dead man was a child molester whose final victim was the male
nephew of tough cop Detective Topo (Henry Silva), who probably killed him in revenge. At a midnight rendezvous with Natalie, Pope is knocked unconscious and wakes up days later in a hospital where he learns that his right kidney has been surgically removed.
Pope reports the incident to Topo, and over the next days is menaced by Noel and Topo while carrying on a steamy affair with Natalie, who may be implicated in his attacks, and with whom he finally flees across the border into the US to his rural family homestead, now run by Hank (Matt Clark)
after the death of his father seven years previously. With henchman Alex (Mario Ivan Martinez), Noel arrives and announces that he set up Pope's surgery and now has a buyer for his other kidney, but they are killed by Pope and Natalie, who is fatally wounded. With Pope cradling the dead Natalie,
the film cuts back to Pope's computer screen, as he finishes typing the last page of his screenplay. Topo arrives to say that Natalie is merely an innocent tourist, and Pope races to her hotel as she's heading home to Chicago, where he promises to look her up. As she drives off, Lakin calls to
say, in voice over, how much he likes the screenplay and that they have a deal set at Columbia, and reports that his new kidney is performing very well and that "a little suffering is a good thing."
Written and directed by first-timer David Marconi, THE HARVEST survives its intricate film-within-a-film shenanigans, even though it's never absolutely clear which is which, a dilemma neatly embodied in Natalie, who functions variously as a whore hired by Noel to set up Pope, a stooge used by
Topo to keep his eye on Pope, or a randy but innocent tourist on a hot vacation fling with Pope. Even at the very end, Pope is taken aback when she tells him she is a nurse, and in our final glimpse of her, she tosses an apple to Pope, bringing up the image of Eve in the Garden of Eden. Marconi's
story line moves in spurts, taking generous time out for its mostly unsavory characters to digress, but the picture's central, downbeat message always rings clear: echoing the producer, Noel says, "We're all whores. We all do it for the money."
Marconi's direction is superbly visually detailed, slyly mixing up all his characters, motives, and plots, and the movie moves fast enough to cover up its schematics. Marconi brazenly includes direct references to CHINATOWN (1974) and Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, and lifts an effective
bit--an ice pick pinioning one victim's hand to a window sill--from the Coen brothers' BLOOD SIMPLE (1985).
THE HARVEST is sometimes self-consciously noir, particularly in the sinuous imagery by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and settings by Rae Fox. Marconi handles the considerable violence with some punch, perhaps aping the crude shock effects that Pope's producer wants out of Pope's project. The
acting is decent, although Miguel Ferrer--with his oddly hard face--doesn't engender much sympathy as the victim/protagonist. Tim (TRANCERS) Thomerson has little to do except let his gut hang obscenely out in a few scenes, while great B-film villain Henry Silva looks a trifle lost in the
proceedings. Leilani Sarelle Ferrer (BASIC INSTINCT) is perfect as the lusty femme fatale. (Graphic violence, extensive nudity, sexual situations, profanity.)
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- Released: 1993
- Rating: R
- Review: Although a bit too tricky and self-conscious, THE HARVEST is a stylish exercise, not to be taken too seriously, in neo-film noir, set in a movie Mexico even more sleazy than that of TOUCH OF EVIL. Hack screenwriter Charlie Pope (Miguel Ferrer) is sent t… (more)