Color Of Night takes the erotic thriller far beyond the point of absurdity

Color Of Night takes the erotic thriller far beyond the point of absurdity

Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: A Good Day To Die Hard has us thinking about less-heralded Bruce Willis movies.

Following the runaway success of Basic Instinct, cineplexes were suddenly flooded by a massive wave of sleazy, voyeuristic, soft-focus erotic thrillers in the mid-’90s. 1994’s exquisitely idiotic Color Of Night boasted a much higher pedigree than most of the field: It was directed by Richard Rush, the man behind the mind-bending 1980 cult classic The Stunt Man and co-written by Billy Ray, who would someday give the world superior docudramas like Shattered Glass and Breach, both of which he directed. 

The eminently overqualified Rush and Ray collaborated on a dizzy, daffy potboiler that doesn’t transcend the sleazy, sordid nature of the erotic thriller so much as it pushes the convoluted plotting and shamelessness of the disreputable subgenre into self-parody and far beyond. The ridiculousness begins with miscasting the always game and constantly employed Bruce Willis as a brilliant psychoanalyst who develops a condition known as “psychosomatic color blindness” after a patient commits suicide in front of him. 

A still-troubled Willis heads out to L.A. to visit friend and colleague Scott Bakula, but after someone murders Bakula, Willis winds up taking over the group therapy sessions he was leading. The therapy group doubles as an over-acting Olympics as the formidable likes of Brad Dourif, Kevin J. O’Connor, Lance Henriksen, and Lesley Ann Warren all attempt to out-crazy each other as suspects in Bakula’s murder. But it’s the now-forgotten Jane March who makes the most indelible impression, for all the right and wrong reasons, as a mysterious, curiously androgynous sexpot who takes up with Willis for mysterious reasons. Willis’ minimalist approach anchors this delirious exercise in carnal über-camp; he’s seemingly the only sane person in a world gone mad. Willis has made lots of bad movies, but few are as guiltily entertaining as this utterly hysterical camp classic. 

Availability: Available on DVD and on various digital rental services, and on a double-feature Blu-ray bundle with Playing God.