The hero of this film is an insomniac (Jeff Goldblum) who doesn’t really know where his life is headed. Watching Into the Night left me with a similar feeling, and I don’t necessarily mean that as a criticism. This whole movie seemed infused with that groggy, discombobulated feeling you get when you’ve been awake for thirty-six hours straight. That may be a creative choice on director John Landis’ part (in which case, bravo) or it may be just the result of a confused and disjointed narrative.
Ed Okin (Goldblum) is aerospace engineer who’s almost catatonically bored with his job, his wife is cheating on him and he can’t sleep. His best friend Herb helpfully suggests a trip to Vegas for some quality time with one or more “professional” women. At some point, Ed is desperate enough to at least consider taking his advice, and gets as far as the airport. Before he can come to his senses and head home, however, trouble lands on the hood of his car in the person of Diana (Michelle Pfeiffer), pursued by a quartet of swarthy types who all turn out to be former agents of the Shah of Iran’s secret police, the SAVAK. This was 1985, after all, and the Iranians were still very au courant as villains. Another interested party is represented by a suave and dapper hit man played with droll enthusiasm by David Bowie.
The whole thing is about a complex web of jewel smuggling and murder that, before the night is over, will leave a trail of dead bodies and spilled drinks all over Los Angeles. If the story does seem a bit scattered and fragmentary, it may be because director Landis only seem about 30% interested in it. Much of the movie seems more like a boozy travelogue of L.A. nightlife, while much of the rest is dedicated to endless cameos by Landis’ fellow directors. It’s like the Directors Guild had a kegger and someone brought a movie camera. Occasionally Landis does get back to Ed, Diana, and their problems.
By the time the credits roll and you’ve finished wondering if that really was the late Jim Henson or David Cronenberg or Jonathan Demme or Roger Vadim (or… or… or…), Into the Night adds up to a whole lot of bits, some of them genuinely funny and some of them… not, but not much of a whole. Many of the parts that do work revolve around David Bowie or Bruce McGill, an Elvis impersonator with anger issues.
Jeff Goldblum and Michelle Pfeiffer, two actors destined for greater things, do their best with their roles, but about halfway through the movie, you wish Ed and Diana would just toss the jewels in the ocean, check into a motel and screw each other senseless. Anything to put an end to this nonsense.