Random Review: The January Man

Updated on July 24, 2018
Gracchus Gruad profile image

A pop culture addict who loves to talk about movies, music, books, comics, and all of the other things that move and entertain us.

The January Man came out in 1989, and has a phenomenal cast. Kevin Kline is Nick, the hero of the film, a man whose bravery and intelligence apparently intimidates the men he once worked with on the police force. His brother Frank is the police commissioner and is played by Harvey Keitel. Rod Steiger plays Mayor Flynn, who demands Nick's return to the force after a serial killer murders a friend of his daughter Bernadette, played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. Rounding out the cast are Danny Aiello as the police captain who doesn't like Nick but has a grudging respect, Susan Sarandon as Frank's wife Christine who had a romantic past with Nick, and Alan Rickman as Nick's artist neighbor who also happens to be a computer whiz.

When the Mayor tells Frank to get his brother back on the force, he goes to find Nick who is now working for the fire department. Nick agrees to come back, if he can have dinner with Frank's wife. It seems odd that Frank would agree to this, but he does. During dinner there is talk of some sort of scandal involving a canceled check, and it is revealed that Nick took the fall for his brother Frank. Nick goes to work and brings along his "wacky" neighbor Ed. We can tell Ed is supposed to be wacky, but as great an actor as Alan Rickman is he just can't pull off wacky.

Nick goes to the funeral of the latest victim of the serial killer, and sees the mayor's daughter there. He stalks her, and for reasons beyond explanation she finds this both charming and reassuring. Nick takes her to a hotel and they make love. Afterward Nick is apparently uncomfortable with their age difference, but she assures him it is no big deal. For the rest of the movie Nick acts like a complete jerk to her, but she not only puts up with his attitude but agrees to allow herself to be used as bait. Nick and Ed use a computer to figure out that the serial killer has a ridiculously complicated pattern involving the placement of the buildings where the killings occur and another pattern with the windows of the apartments in the buildings, along with the dates the murders are committed.

Just when it seems that Nick might be on the verge of solving this thing, a copy-cat killer commits suicide and convinces everyone but Nick that the danger is over, because apparently in 1989 the police force of one of America's largest cities didn't know about copy-cat killers. Luckily Nick, Bernadette and Ed set up a sting operation, using the mayor's daughter as bait. As the killer is trying to strangle Bernadette, he apparently is either oblivious or just ignores Bernadette screaming out to Nick by name, and Nick smashing in the door to the apartment with a sledge hammer. This leads into a weird, slow chase scene and the inevitable climax of the movie. This is where the comedy attempts work the least, making the climax unfortunately not thrilling or funny, which is bad for a movie billed as as a thriller/comedy.

The movie cannot seem to decide if it wants to be a comedy or a straight thriller. There were scenes that were obviously supposed to be funny that just fall flat. Alan Rickman is just completely misused. The villain only shows up in the opening scene and the closing sequence, and there is no sense of threat. There are plot points that aren't really explained, and much of what happens doesn't seem to make much sense as a result. And there is zero chemistry between Kevin Kline and Susan Sarandon, which is bad enough since she is supposed to be his lost love who still carries a spark for him, but also with Mary Mastrantonio, who is his love interest in this movie.

Despite all the clunkiness, the cast is good enough to make the movie watchable, if not quite good. The only parts that were funny I suspect were not actually meant to be, but there are a couple of laughs to be had. You won't be on the edge of your seat for the solution to the puzzle of the killer, but you will be waiting for Alan Rickman to come back on the screen, even if it is obvious that he is not playing the character that was written on the page. So while I wouldn't go out of my way to watch this movie, if it's on and there doesn't seem to be anything else good on, it is worth a sit through.

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