Thursday, April 18, 2013

EUREKA (1983) - Nicolas Roeg

Once you find your goldmine, it's mostly downhill from there. That seems to be the story with Gene Hackman's Alaskan prospector Jack McCann and Eureka on the whole. The opening scenes of Hackman slogging through the snow, killing time in a bordello, falling accidentally into hallucinatory underground cave awash in spewing veins of gold have a haunting otherworldly quality. There's a random suicide he witnesses outside a Claims Office that speaks of grim things to come. If only the things to come weren't so ordinarily grim.

Cut to decades later. Hackman is rich beyond rich, retired to a tropical paradise, married to a socialite though he seems more in love with his daughter (Theresa Russell). He's also a little racist, depressed, paranoid that her new young lover (Rutger Hauer) is out to steal his money, along with everyone else. In short, like most guys who become rich early in their lives, he has little else to do but protect his assets, the difference here being that Hackman sometimes protects them with a meat cleaver.

Eureka is an odd bird of a movie with an interesting cast. Mickey Rourke, Joe Pesci, and Joe Spinell are also in it. The later scenes of business strategizing and Hauer and Russell's is-it-for-real-or-is-it-not romance don't really deliver on the promise of those early prospecting scenes. Things devolve into a grisly murder, then a murder trial and one of the most off-kilter courtroom scenes I've seen a while. Hauer is the accused acting as his own lawyer questioning his own wife Russell. Until she turns the tables on him, begins questioning him about their love life. The scene is a little inspired and a little Judge Judy. You keep waiting for someone to say "Order in the court." Or"Get a room."

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