film reel image

film reel image

Friday, April 26, 2024

Pacific Heights 1990 * * * 1/2 Stars


Making you think twice before skipping the background check, forking over the room keys, and taking in a complete dirt ball who doesn't bother to pay rent, 1990's Pacific Heights is a dusky, thriller drama that relentlessly works as a veridical, living nightmare. "I don't think you'll have a problem". Really? Oh think again Batman, think again.

Distributed by Twentieth Century Fox and directed by the dude that made Midnight Cowboy and Marathon Man (the late John Schlesinger), Pacific Heights has antagonist Carter Hayes (played with pure remorselessness by Michael Keaton) sliming his way into occupying an apartment from pushover, renter couple Drake Goodman and Patty Palmer (the rattled Matthew Modine and the more tranquil Melanie Griffith). 

Yeah it's all pretty vexing as Carter makes Patty and Drake's lives a living purgatory. I mean we're talking cockroaches and loud hammering and drilling and creepy guests and harmful nail guns oh my! Oh and Carter hasn't given Patty or Drake one cent as he readily plans to swindle them yuppie-style. What a bag and in '90, who knew Keaton could flex and easily turn on the nasty. Even when he's not screen (which is surprisingly often), you just feel his guise anyway. "This is my business, and I'm very good at it". Um, settle down Batman, just settle down. 

Filmed mostly in San Francisco, CA, with tenebrous hues, a sense of hinged confinement, and a knack for giving its protagonist characters the worst of misfortune, Pacific Heights lets director Schlesinger turn up the damaging, psychological screws with a little noir, a little barbarity, and a whole lot of squalid exploitation. Hans Zimmer's forewarning musical score, a slight Brian De Palma mocking, and camera framing that's a little Fatal Attraction-esque just make the flick even more of an effective, retro watch. "Pacific high". 

Written by Jesse Burleson

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