- Directed by Pat O’Connor
- January 13, 1989
A serial killer is stalking New York and only one man can catch him.
The January Man is a very by the books 80s thriller for the time. In the end though there is nothing too special about it. It is like one of a dozen or more films released in that decade. It is part comedy and part thriller. It features a quirky detective on the outs with the local police (in this case the New York City Police Department).
Yes it does have some positive points and I think with maybe another go through with the script this could have been something special rather than merely entertaining. I did enjoy it, but I felt it was missing something. The story felt rushed, and by the credits I was left with the feeling scenes were either missing or merged to limit the runtime.
Kevin Kline plays Lt. Nick Starkey, the featured detective of the story, who at the start of the film is working as a firefighter in New York. As per usual in these films he has an ex-girlfriend with whom he has a very strained relationship and a family member (his brother Frank played by Harvey Keitel) with whom he has an equally strained relationship because Frank ended up marrying his ex-girlfriend Christine (Susan Sarandon). And to top off the mixture he falls for somebody he probably should not fall for but does anyway as such movie detectives usually do. In this case it is the mayor’s daughter Bernadette (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) with the mayor played by Rod Steiger.
Weirdly Nick becomes attracted to Bernadette first at a service for her dead friend. That is just creepy. Or weird. Take your pick. I am just curious at what point scriptwriter John Patrick Shanley thought this was a good idea. “Where should they meet? Hmmm. I know! Her friend’s funeral!”
Kevin Kline tried very hard for a New York accent, but he sounds more like he’s from Boston-fake Boston actually. And his accent is inconsistent during the film’s runtime. Some actors can do accents and do them well but not every actor can, and Kevin Kline falls into that category. An accent is not necessary to sell the character. I dare say most viewers will pick up on an actor’s natural speaking voice being regionally inappropriate.
Nick from comes from the Colombo mold of fictional detectives. He is quirky and odd and brilliant. He employs these traits not only in his work but in his relationships. From his friends to family, everything must have an odd angle for…reasons.
Alan Rickman has a supporting part as Nick’s quirky friend and neighbor Ed who is an artist who helps Nick when he gets reinstated to the police department. Near as I can tell it is done to irritate Capt. Vincent Alcoa (Danny Aiello) who is the blustery and loud frenemy to Nick. Alcoa does not like Nick, but he respects him. Isn’t that always the way?
I was expecting more Faye Grant in this movie than what I actually got. There is a headshot of her and a few seconds worth of a scene of her in the beginning, but she gets killed rather quickly in the story to the point she does not even really get to make a character. The thing is her name is in the opening credits. While Grant is an attractive woman and a fine actress, she was never a huge name so I am not sure how she got opening credits billing.
Susan Sarandon is criminally underused here. Her character is just bitchy and has almost no impact on the story. Either cast an unknown or just remove the character. Her big contribution to things is having taken a check from Nick’s place and thus it being missing put him under a cloud of suspicion which forced him out of the department prior to the film. Remove her and keep the fate of the check a mystery. The story would still be the same.
Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio was a big deal during the time. For much of the film she is there to service Nick’s journey but has little to make her an actual character. Her most important factor is to help Nick catch the killer but what gets me is that this supposedly intelligent killer that chooses his victims has no idea he is trying to kill the wrong person. She does not even have a passing resemblance to the actress playing the intended victim.
There are some interesting elements in this film. I thought the decision making process of the killer was interesting. And I liked the reason that Nick came up with for why he killed. But the thing is those interesting elements did not get played up. The killer was more of a background character to get interactions between everybody else to the point of bordering on unimportant. I would have liked the mystery to have been pushed forward a little more and things expanded upon a little bit.
As I said before The January Man is nothing special, but it does manage to be entertaining. And I guess that is owed largely to the cast. They were some talented individuals of the time that either went on to bigger things or just stepped out of the limelight still in the good graces of the public.
Is The January Man a must see? No but it is entertaining and if you should come across it I say give you will not feel like you completely wasted your time.’