Briefly, Ed Okin (Goldblum) is an insomniac aerospace engineer who encounters Diana (Pfeiffer), an Iranian smuggler's girlfriend/mule, in the parking garage of Los Angeles International Airport, inadvertently rescuing her from her fiancé's homicidal crime family and getting drawn into a very complicated jewel heist plot which unfolds over the following 24 hours and sees the imperiled duo running all over the City of Angels.
As with many other Landis films, character actors and cameos abound: Dan Aykroyd plays Ed's friend Herb, Vera Miles plays villainess Joan Caper, David Bowie plays a scuzzy hitman, and many movie directors have minor and bit parts — with Landis himself as one of the Iranian villains.
Not to be confused with the 2020 Belgian Netflix series of the same name, which is a sci-fi thriller about a passenger airline desperately trying to avoid the sun.
Has examples of:
- Action Survivor: Ed. He begins the film a poor schnook who gets dragged into a criminal conspiracy he's way unprepared for. By the end of the film, he's encountered three different flavors of organized crime, the Iranian secret police, CIA and FBI agents, and even Elvis impersonators, and is no longer fazed by anything — probably helped by the fact he's already Too Broken to Break due to his insomnia.Ed Okin: (facing down an Iranian assassin) "This is ridiculous. You... You're a big shot, huh? You got a gun. Now what, shithead? You. Huh? Maniac...." (pauses and takes a deep breath) "Let me ask you something. Maybe you can help me. What's wrong with my life? Why is my wife sleeping with someone else? Why can't I sleep?"
- The Alleged Car: Ed's doesn't like to start.
- Aluminum Christmas Trees: The "Go see Cal" commercial playing in the background at one point with a man riding a hippo is a real automotive dealership, and a real commercial. Cal Worthington "And his 'dog' spot" (which was always some different strange animal) were ubiquitous in the Los Angeles area at the time. The dealerships still exist, but Cal died in September 2013.
- And Starring: "and David Bowie as Colin Morris"
- Asleep for Days: At the end, Ed, for two days — and awakening in the same position with hands behind the head and his elbows up and not a bit stiff!
- Berserk Button: The SAVAK agents are touchy. It ends badly for the parrot.
- Briefcase Full of Money: Presented to Ed and Diana at the end of the film.
- The Cameo: A lot, as Landis packed the film with all his Hollywood buddies. A partial list: David Cronenberg as Ed's supervisor, Jonathan Demme as a federal agent, Jim Henson as a man talking on the phone, Lawrence Kasdan as a police detective, Carl Perkins as Mr. Williams, and Roger Vadim as the French kidnapper.
- Creator Cameo: Landis appears as the mute Iranian mook.
- Elvis Impersonator: Diana's brother Charlie is a big time Elvis fan (and an impersonator). She goes to him for help, and he throws her out of his house.Diana: Elvis wouldn't do this! And I knew him!Charlie: You didn't know him. You may have fucked him, but you didn't know him!
- Farce: Ed is waiting for Diana on a TV show set and he leans against a rock which breaks, and tries to use a payphone only to discover it's a prop.
- Fanservice: Michelle Pfeiffer has a few moments of nudity, and two minor female characters also appear nude. None of it is really important to the plot.
- Femme Fatale: Diana is between this and Damsel in Distress. Slightly subverted in that she knows full well she's a "bad guy" but doesn't want to hurt Ed.
- Film Noir: It's a comedy, but it has the main elements of this—a Femme Fatale, a heist, and a nighttime setting.
- Good Scars, Evil Scars: The SAVAK agent played by Landis has an impressive set of Evil Scars, including a large one on his throat (which is apparently to explain why he's The Speechless).
- Indy Ploy: From the moment Ed and Diana meet, the film is one long series of Indy Ploys devised by the two of them.
- The Insomniac: Ed claims that he hasn't a full night's sleep in years. His insomnia is what gets the plot going.
- Knife Fight: Colin Morris gets into such a struggle, and it kills him offscreen.
- MacGuffin: Six perfect emeralds from the crown jewels of Iran.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: As an Unbuilt Trope at the time, Diana has elements of this, but while she certainly does shake up Ed's humdrum life, Ed spends a lot of the first half of the film just wanting to go home and forget about her!
- Modesty Bedsheet: in the opening Ed's wife is asleep nude in bed with the bedsheet conveniently covering her rear.
- My Car Hates Me: Inverted. Insomniac Ed, who drove to the airport after finding his wife in flagrante delicto, has decided to go back home, but he can't get his car started. Enter Michelle Pfeiffer, being chased by Iranian diamond smugglers. She jumps into his car and tells him to go — and the car starts right up!
- Need a Hand, or a Handjob?: Played with. Herb tells Ed that in Las Vegas there's a certain hooker who will do anything you ask for a certain price. Ed, who knows what he's talking about but isn't really interested, responds "Will she buy me a pony?" in Sarcasm Mode.
- One Crazy Night: A madcap all-night adventure involving the CIA, the FBI, a pile of money, and the Iranian secret police, all because one guy couldn't sleep.
- Pinball Protagonist: Ed. This is why Jack Nicholson turned down the part, as he told John Landis.Jack Nicholson: "I like it and I like you. But this guy doesn't really do anything. The audience likes the leading man to take action."
- Pop-Star Composer: He didn't compose the score (that was Ira Newborn), but the guitar of B.B. King is a very prominent part of it, and King also sings the theme song and two other numbers. Landis also directed a tie-in TV special that focused solely on King's career and contributions to the film, which appears as a bonus feature on the Shout Select Blu-Ray release, and features music videos for all three songs — complete with Goldblum, Pfeiffer, Aykroyd, Steve Martin, and Eddie Murphy (despite the last two not appearing in the movie!) playing his backing band in the two In Da Club clips. (Goldblum also appears in the Video Full of Film Clips for the title song, again as the pianist in King's studio band — it helps he actually does play piano.)
- P.O.V. Cam: Used when Diana's friend Christy is being drowned by Shaheen's boys.
- Slapstick: quite a bit of the comedy, especially involving the four Iranian hitmen. In fact, that's why Landis plays one of them - he found that he could more easily direct actors with little experience in this comedic tradition if he led by example.
- Title Theme Tune: "Into the Night", during the opening credits.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: During the climax, most of the bad guys get blown away, but the one played by John Landis seems to get a special sendoff. In an interview, he said "That's the way I'd want to go".
- Token Romance: Averted, even though the poster calls it "A dangerous romance." There is no romantic tension or subplot between Ed and Diana at all (outside of Ed obviously being impressed when he briefly glimpses Diana nude, and Diana's reaction to Ed after he falls asleep in the hotel room), leaving it up to the viewer to decide if any relationship happens after the story ends. (Jeff Goldblum devotes some time to speculating on this in a retrospective featurette on the Blu-Ray release; the uncut interview is available on the Shout! Takes podcast.)
- Too Broken to Break: Played with. Poor Ed Okin has been suffering from chronic insomnia, apparently for years. During the course of his two-night adventure, he encounters threats, violence and murder, including an assassin sticking the barrel of a Walther PPK in his mouth while interrogating him and, later, the need to try and talk down a surrounded former Iranian secret police agent who has taken Diana hostage. For the most part Ed barely reacts with anything more than mild bemusement or disbelief (although a jump scare with a barking dog briefly panics him). His condition has left him mostly detached from the reality of the dangers around him.
- Victoria's Secret Compartment: Though in this case it *does* refer to the, uh, other compartment.
- Villains Out Shopping: Or rather getting suits in the middle of the night.
- Vomit Discretion Shot: After picking her up in the parking lot, Diana asks Ed to pull over because she's sick, leading to this trope.
- You Didn't See That: At the end a friend of Jack's dumps a HUGE load of cash on the bed for Ed and Diana from Jack. Ed says "Is this all ours?" The agent then fills his pockets with a few stacks and points out there's nothing Ed and Diana can do about what he just did.