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Film / After Dark, My Sweet

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After Dark, My Sweet is a 1990 film directed by James Foley.

Jason Patric stars as Kevin "Collie" Collins, a former professional boxer. As the film opens he has escaped from a mental institution, where he was put after he killed a man in the ring. His meek demeanor and nonstop chatter mark him off as mentally disturbed, but tend to give false impressions: people believe that he is dumb when he is actually quite intelligent, and people believe that he can be pushed around when he is actually capable of terrifying violence.

Kevin, drifting aimlessly after escaping from the mental hospital, winds up in a dusty desert town in the general vicinity of Palm Springs, CA. He attracts the attention of Fay Anderson (Rachel Ward), a young widow who lives alone and drinks to excess. Fay ostensibly hires Kevin to tidy up her dilapidated estate and look after her date tree orchard, but she is clearly sexually attracted to him.

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Or she may have another motive. Soon after Kevin takes up residence in the trailer on Fay's property, he is approached by one "Uncle Bud" (Bruce Dern), an ex-cop and acquaintance of Fay's who is clearly not her uncle. Uncle Bud has turned to a life of crime, and soon enlists Kevin in his scheme: the kidnapping of a sickly child from a local rich family.

Based on the novel of the same name by legendary pulp fiction writer Jim Thompson.


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Tropes:

  • Casualty in the Ring: Kevin has been left traumatized after, in the backstory, he beat a man to death in the boxing ring. This is revealed in a series of flashbacks.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: Fay is seen smoking for the one and only time in the movie right before the gang sets out to collect the ransom.
  • Coincidental Broadcast:
    • When the gang gets little Jack back to the safe house after the kidnapping, the radio is broadcasting a report of said kidnapping.
    • As Fay and Kevin speed away after the fiasco at the airport at the end, another radio broadcast not only reports on the shooting, it reveals that the cops now know Kevin's name.
  • Erotic Eating: Fay sticks her finger into something—sugar?—at the dining table, and then very suggestively sticks it in her mouth and licks it, in the scene where Uncle Bud is explaining how the robbery will go down.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Uncle Bud reminds Fay of Kevin's suggested revision to the plan, in which they would pretend to kidnap the boy and Bud would play the hero by "rescuing" him. Fay reiterates the objections to that plan, saying "But it couldn't be done, someone would have to get caught or—", and it's at that moment that she realizes that Uncle Bud's original plan was to kill Kevin and pin the whole kidnapping on him.
  • Film Noir: A drifter wanders into town, gets involved with a sultry widow, then gets mixed up in a criminal plot that the sultry widow's slimy acquaintance has cooked up.
  • Heartbeat Soundtrack: A heartbeat soundtrack is heard in the Casualty in the Ring flashback sequences. The heartbeat soundtrack is heard at other times in the movie that are times of great tension, like when Doc Goldman, who has discovered that Kevin and Fay are holding little Jack, tries to leave and Kevin stands in the doorway.
  • Heroes Fight Barehanded: An extremely dark example. The end of the Casualty in the Ring flashback shows that after Kevin's opponent was driven to his knees, Kevin threw the referee aside, ripped his glove off, and beat the other boxer to death with his bare right hand.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: At the end, Kevin realizes that Fay is at heart a good and innocent person, and she was just swept along by him and Uncle Bud. So Kevin, who has spent much of the third act trying to keep Bud from murdering little Jack, switches gears and pretends that he is going to murder the boy to cover his tracks. He lies to her that he's been stringing her along the whole time and implies that he might kill her next. Then he makes sure to put his gun in his back pocket, so she can grab it and shoot him when he leans into the car to get the boy. She does. He deliberately tricked her and goaded her into killing him so that she would look innocent to the cops and not go to prison.
  • Inner Monologue: Chunks of Kevin's first-person narration from the book are rendered as inner monologues, like in the last scene where he thinks about how he has to arrange things so Fay will not be blamed for the kidnapping.
  • In the Back: How Uncle Bud goes out, shot in the back by Bert almost instantly after emerging from the airport with the ransom briefcase.
  • Kubrick Stare: When his opponent springs a punch to the gut during a flashback to the boxing scene, Kevin doubles over and then fixes his opponent with a chilling Kubrick Stare, made all the more scary because his face is already cut and bloody from boxing. He beats the other man to death soon after.
  • Lady Drunk: Fay is bitter and drinks a lot. She seems to latch onto Kevin as more of a drinking companion than anything else, at least at first.
  • Non-Indicative Name: The title is completely random and has nothing to do with the story.
  • One-Eyed Shot: The film ends with a closeup of Kevin's eye, as he lies dying face down on the side of the road, having successfully goaded Fay into shooting him so that she won't take the blame for the kidnapping.
  • Orbital Shot: The series of flashbacks to the Casualty in the Ring ends with Kevin standing in the middle of the ring, the camera circling around him, with a My God, What Have I Done? look on his face as many flashbulbs pop and light him up.
  • Sexy Backless Outfit: A shot of a woman in a sexy backless dress is implied to be Fay, but the next shot reveals that it's an anonymous woman Kevin is looking at while he and Fay drink in the dance hall.
  • Sinister Switchblade: Bert the scary bartender, to whom Uncle Bud apparently owes a lot of money, clicks open his sinister switchblade and is about to start stabbing Bud when Kevin barges in and knocks him out.
  • This Just In!: This exact phrase is used on the radio broadcast at the end, when the radio announcer reports that one Kevin Collins has been identified as the kidnapper.
  • The Trope Kid: When Kevin was a boxer he was known as "Kid" Collins.
  • The Unreveal: What's in that rolled-up paper bag that Kevin totes around everywhere?
  • Who Wears Short Shorts?: Fay's default attire is a pair of short shorts that show off her long legs. A Male Gaze shot reveals Kevin staring at her bottom as she leads him to the trailer where he is to live.
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