Sunday, July 17, 2011

Off Limits (1988)

I’ve seen the title, Off Limits, so many times, but I stayed away from it, mostly because I never really cared for something that looked like an ordinary cop movie from the eighties. I want my cop movies to be a grittier and this looked way to slick and mainstream on the covers I’ve seen. But like all good movies, they tend to follow you and finally I had to take a closer look and wtf, this looked really interesting! A serial killer thriller set in Saigon, 1968! The serial killer movies from the eighties was often closer to murder mysteries, and I most of the times prefer that before the grislier movies that came after Silence of the Lambs and Seven.

Willem Dafoe and Gregory Hines are two cops working in Saigon. They are the usual assholes, quite racist and violent and very cynical. One day a prostitute is killed in her home, shot point blank in the head with her baby screaming next to her. A pin belonging to an officer in the US army is found on the site. Soon they find that this is the seventh murder, all done by the same serial killer. The deeper they dig, they discover that someone wants to stop them, kill them and also kill the only witnesses that could identify the killer…

Hidden behind a bland title (and “Saigon”, another title used is even more boring) lies a very violent and smart thriller, which in an intelligent way show the way it was without being another boring Vietnam movie. Except for one sequence it stays away from war scenes and spends most of the time in the grittier areas of the city (it was shot in Bangkok, Thailand, and makes great use of the atmosphere there). It could have been a serial killer flick set in New York or something, not much differs from if they had chose that location, but the exotic city clearly makes the story more interesting to watch.

The cast of Dafoe and Hines, both good as usual, is combined with the brilliant performance by Fred Ward and Scott Glenn. In two smaller parts we see David Alan Grier (I’ve only seen him as Don “No Soul” Simmons in Amazon Women on the Moon before) and the always awesome Keith David (Childs in John Carpenter’s The Thing) as one of the unlucky witnesses. The rest of the supporting cast is Thai actor and actresses and a few Vietnam names here and there.

Off Limits gets a lot of its quality from the chemistry between Dafoe and Hines, and its one of the best things with the movie. The action itself, not that much to be honest, looks realistic and bloody and have that documentary feeling that it often gets when someone shoots on location in big cities in Thailand. It’s just hard to make everything to look clean and nice, and that’s of course not the point here either.

In the end Off Limits is a very satisfying thriller with excellent actors and well-told. It’s not the typical Vietnam movie and it’s very refreshing to see.

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