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  • Benjamin May

Into The Night (1985) Review

Aerospace engineer Ed Okin can’t get any sleep. He’s in a rut, professionally and personally. After discovering his wife in flagrante delicto with another man, Ed drives out to LAX. He has no real plan in mind; maybe he’ll go to Vegas. In the airport car park, he comes across Diana, a jewel thief on the run from a gang of vicious Iranian villains. He saves Diana, becoming entangled in a complicated web of malfeasance. Will Ed and Diana make it through the night alive?


Directed by John Landis from a screenplay by Ron Koslow, ‘Into the Night’ is an offbeat crime comedy, a little like Martin Scorsese’s ‘After Hours’ or Jonathan Demme’s ‘Something Wild.’ Like those two films- which were released after Landis’s- it follows an ordinary man thrust into an extraordinary situation. Okin is tired of the dull routine his life has become. After meeting Diana, he rediscovers excitement- and the will to keep on going- through his spontaneous journey into the Los Angeles underworld.

In this way, the theme of escapism is cleverly interwoven into the narrative. Okin’s mundane existence is suddenly replaced by a thrilling escapade unfolding under the cover of darkness. This transition, from the banality of his daily routine to the unpredictability of the night, reflects a deep-seated desire to break free from the shackles of conformity. Similarly, the film delves into the search for meaning in life, as Okin embarks on a quest that is as much about self-discovery as it is about survival. The night becomes a metaphor for the unknown, a space where the characters are free to explore their identities away from the prying eyes of society.


Furthermore, Okin's chance encounter with the uninhibited Diana acts as a catalyst for an existential awakening. The film's portrayal of the night as a metaphorical journey from desolation to discovery is compelling, suggesting that, sometimes, one must be lost in the darkness to find the true light of life. This theme resonates with audiences, as everyone, at some point, yearns for an escape from the monotony of their daily lives. Landis captures this universal longing with a winning blend of humour and suspense, making proceedings all the more engaging.

Moreover, Koslow's dialogue sparkles with clever banter and funny lines, while his characterization- with particular regard to the supporting roles- adds another layer of humour, with each character bringing their own quirks and idiosyncrasies to the table. From the bumbling hitmen to the eccentric Hollywood figures Okin and Diana encounter, the film revels in the absurdity of each situation and character. The juxtaposition of comic and dark elements is a hallmark of Landis's direction, creating a film defying easy categorization; remaining memorable long after the credits roll.


However, it is not without its issues. The narrative feels meandering, with a tendency to wander as aimlessly as its protagonist through the sprawling Los Angeles nightscape. This occasionally results in a loss of momentum, leaving the audience yearning for a tighter storyline. Additionally, a plethora of side characters are introduced who, while colourful, sometimes distract from the central plot and lack depth and development. While this ensemble adds to the film's depiction of Los Angeles life, it also dilutes the impact of Okin and Diana's journey.

Having said that, Robert Paynter’s cinematography perfectly captures the dichotomy of Los Angeles’ glossy veneer and its shadowy underbelly. He brings a kinetic energy to the night-time escapades, with neon lights and the city’s luminescence painting a backdrop that feels both dreamlike and gritty. The use of shadows and light not only adds to the film’s noir aesthetic but also symbolizes the characters’ journey from ignorance to enlightenment.


Furthermore, the soundtrack- featuring the likes of B.B. King, The Four Tops and Marvin Gaye- complements the film astutely. The bluesy tunes underscore the film’s themes of loneliness and the search for connection, while the more upbeat tracks accompany the film’s action sequences, adding a layer of excitement to proceedings. Moreover, Ira Newborn’s original score acts as an emotional guide for the audience, subtly influencing our perception of the characters’ experiences and the stakes of their adventure.

The film stars Jeff Goldblum as Okin, alongside Michelle Pfeiffer as Diana. Portrayed with a weary charm by Goldblum, Okin is the quintessential everyman, lost in the ennui of modern life. His character’s evolution from a passive observer to an active participant in his own story is relatable; and Goldblum pulls it off with ease. Pfeiffer’s pitch perfect performance as Diana is the ideal foil to Okin’s inertia. With her quick wit and captivating allure, she embodies the excitement and danger that he craves. Their dynamic is the driving force of the film, as each character finds in the other something they didn’t realize they were missing.


The chemistry between Goldblum and Pfeiffer seems genuine, providing a grounding human element to the film’s wilder comedic escapades. As they navigate the night’s challenges, their interactions offer moments of connection, underscoring the film’s exploration of loneliness and the human need for companionship. Additionally, the numerous supporting characters are each and all realized brilliantly. Paul Mazursky’s performance as a sleazy director and Kathryn Harrold’s as an actress friend of Diana’s are the stand outs, as well as Richard Farnsworth's as a millionaire and David Bowie’s as a mysterious hitman, who- as in David Lynch’s ‘Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me’- is given too little screen time.

Despite its meandering narrative and a surplus of side characters, John Landis’s ‘Into the Night’ is compelling, unpredictable and comedic. Its exploration of themes such as escapism and the search for meaning- paired with standout performances by Jeff Goldblum and Michelle Pfeiffer- make it an engaging, entertaining watch. Boasting fine cinematography from Robert Paynter, as well as a stirring score, it works on nearly every level, and surely is a night to remember.

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