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A Movie A Day: Quint on BEST SELLER (1987)
I ain’t drivin’ nowhere, motherfucker. I’m on my break.

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day. [For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection or from my DVR and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.] We end our James Woods Marathon with today’s John Flynn movie BEST SELLER, co-starring Brian Dennehy. This movie is so thoroughly ‘80s… I loved it. Nothing like mid to late ‘80s filmmaking… overly-lit, with tons of steam during every single chase scene, but free to tell a tale without a clear-cut bad guy who drops as many F bombs as he wants.

If I had any doubt that this would be an ‘80s extravaganza they were erased when Larry Cohen’s name came up with a writing credit. I love Larry Cohen, especially ‘80s Larry Cohen. MANIAC COP, Q: THE WINGED SERPENT… THE Mother-Fuckin’ STUFF… hell yeah. But I wasn’t aware that he wrote a straight-up dramatic thriller, let alone one directed by John ROLLING THUNDER Flynn, until stumbling upon this film used as my favorite used DVD store, Buybacks. Predating POINT BREAK by 4 years, the flick opens with a heist of a police depot by a group wearing Nixon masks. Here we’re introduced to Dennehy, a cop in the wrong place at the right time. As much as I liked this scene, they slipped up pretty big here. There is no doubt whatsoever that the main masked man is James Woods. His ADR is so clearly James Woods, his voice to distinct even when he tries to mask it, that there’s no doubt who he is. Basically, Dennehy is left for dead, after getting a knife into the gunman, and ultimately survives to write a best selling book about the robbery. We move forward a decade, out of the ‘70s and into the ‘80s as Dennehy’s life is a mess. He’s a single parent raising his daughter, his wife dead, he owes a book that he’s delayed long enough that there might be legal action against him. Basically the only thing he has left is his job, still working the beat.

That’s where we meet back up with him, as he spring into action at a loading dock chasing down a dude I recognized as an ‘80s action regular, but couldn’t tell you his name. James Woods, decked out in an ‘80s brown suit, pops up out of nowhere, saves Dennehy’s life. Woods disappears, then shows up a couple scenes later with a proposition. He wants Dennehy to write another book, this time about his former employer, a charming CEO who had a bookful of people knocked off during his rise to power. Woods admits he’s a hitman and was involved with the robbery from the beginning of the movie, but only in that he was a driver… So there’s the problem with knowing Woods was the gunman who shoots Dennehy twice in the opening of the movie. When Dennehy buys his story and starts working with him on this book, the audience is now an easy half an hour ahead of the movie, just waiting for Dennehy to get wise. But the real success of the movie is in the writing of Woods’ assassin, Cleve. Cohen didn’t pull any punches with his character. He’s dickish, he’s a cold-blooded killer without an iota of remorse or humanity about that aspect of his life, but as Dennehy gets to know him we find that he is very human. He wants a legacy. He’s helping to implicate his old boss for mysterious reasons, but the more we uncover the more we find out just how desperate he is to be painted as a good guy. He can never make that change in his life, but he sure as hell can work towards how his image will look in the book. He doesn’t want to be a good man. He wants to be SEEN as a good man. It’s a fascinating and dark character that Woods relishes playing. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s his best performance. This is the first time in the last few Woods movies where I heard the actor reading his lines and not speaking as the character. He’s still very good in the movie, but there was that distance for me.

Dennehy is good as the straight man, but really doesn’t get much of a chance to shine. His character is simple compared to Woods’, a good guy and good cop. He has one great scene where he is met by representatives fo the corporate who subtly threaten him against writing and publishing the book. Dennehy gets to be incredibly strong and sarcastic here, flexing nuts and not bowing to any pressure. It’s fun for us to watch and it’s the one moment where I felt his character got to be proactive. Performance-wise, Dennehy’s strong throughout, but this one scene is where he gets to excel. John Flynn’s direction is perfectly fine, but the movie is nowhere near his best. For that, try to find either ROLLING THUNDER or THE OUTFIT, starring Robert Duvall, Joe Don Baker and Robert Ryan. I don’t think either are out on DVD yet (why the hell not?), but they’re both incredible movies. Final Thoughts: BEST SELLER is a fun movie, completely in the ‘80s buddy-film mold, but with characters unique enough and a tone dark enough to keep it from becoming lost in the LETHAL WEAPONS of the era. We don’t get movies like this much anymore… extremely violent thrillers with morally reprehensible leads. That alone makes this one worthy of a viewing.

Here’s what we have lined up for the next week: Wednesday, November 19th: THE HOLCROFT COVENANT (1985)

Thursday, November 20th: BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ (1962)

Friday, November 21st: WHITE HEAT (1949)

Saturday, November 22nd: MAN OF A THOUSAND FACES (1957)

Sunday, November 23rd: EACH DAWN I DIE (1938)

Monday, November 24th: THE BRIDE CAME C.O.D. (1941)

Tuesday, November 25th: THE PETRIFIED FOREST (1936)

Tomorrow we follow Victoria Tennant, who has a small role in this film, over to John Frankenheimer's 1985 Robert Ludlum adaptation, THE HOLCROFT COVENANT, starring Michael Caine. See you folks for that one! -Quint

Previous Movies: June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay
August 21st: Man, Woman & Child
August 22nd: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane
August 23rd: The Young Philadelphians
August 24th: The Rack
August 25th: Until They Sail
August 26th: Somebody Up There Likes Me
August 27th: The Set-Up
August 28th: The Devil & Daniel Webster
August 29th: Cat People
August 30th: The Curse of the Cat People
August 31st: The 7th Victim
September 1st: The Ghost Ship
September 2nd: Isle of the Dead
September 3rd: Bedlam
September 4th: Black Sabbath
September 5th: Black Sunday
September 6th: Twitch of the Death Nerve
September 7th: Tragic Ceremony
September 8th: Lisa & The Devil
September 9th: Baron Blood
September 10th: A Shot In The Dark
September 11th: The Pink Panther
September 12th: The Return of the Pink Panther
September 13th: The Pink Panther Strikes Again
September 14th: Revenge of the Pink Panther
September 15th: Trail of the Pink Panther
September 16th: The Real Glory
September 17th: The Winning of Barbara Worth
September 18th: The Cowboy and the Lady
September 19th: Dakota
September 20th: Red River
September 21st: Terminal Station
September 22nd: The Search
September 23rd: Act of Violence
September 24th: Houdini
September 25th: Money From Home
September 26th: Papa’s Delicate Condition
September 27th: Dillinger
September 28th: Battle of the Bulge
September 29th: Daisy Kenyon
September 30th: Laura
October 1st: The Dunwich Horror
October 2nd: Experiment In Terror
October 3rd: The Devil’s Rain
October 4th: Race With The Devil
October 5th: Salo, Or The 120 Days of Sodom
October 6th: Bad Dreams
October 7th: The House Where Evil Dwells
October 8th: Memories of Murder
October 9th: The Hunger
October 10th: I Saw What You Did
October 11th: I Spit On Your Grave
October 12th: Naked You Die
October 13th: The Wraith
October 14th: Silent Night, Bloody Night
October 15th: I Bury The Living
October 16th: The Beast Must Die
October 17th: Hellgate
October 18th: He Knows You’re Alone
October 19th: The Thing From Another World
October 20th: The Fall of the House of Usher
October 21st: Audrey Rose
October 22nd: Who Slew Auntie Roo?
October 23rd: Wait Until Dark
October 24th: Dead & Buried
October 25th: A Bucket of Blood
October 26th: The Bloodstained Shadow
October 27th: I, Madman
October 28th: Return to Horror High
October 29th: Die, Monster, Die
October 30th: Epidemic
October 31st: Student Bodies
November 1st: Black Widow
November 2nd: The Ghost & Mrs. Muir
November 3rd: Flying Tigers
November 4th: Executive Action
November 5th: The Busy Body
November 6th: It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World
November 7th: Libeled Lady
November 8th: Up The River
November 9th: Doctor Bull
November 10th: Judge Priest
November 11th: Ten Little Indians
November 12th: Murder On The Orient Express
November 13th: Daniel
November 14th: El Dorado
November 15th: The Gambler
November 16th: Once Upon A Time In America
November 17th: Salvador

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