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"The January Man" (1989)

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"The January Man" (1989)

"The January Man" (1989)

Great Cast, Not So Great Execution

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 (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.

Kevin Kline Plays Ex-Supercop

When the Mayor tells Frank to get his brother back on the force, he finds Nick working for the fire department. Nick agrees to come back, but only if he can have dinner with Christine. It seems odd that Frank would agree to this, but he does.

During dinner there is talk of a scandal involving a canceled check, and it is revealed that Nick took the fall for 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.

L–R: Alan Rickman, Kevin Kline and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio

L–R: Alan Rickman, Kevin Kline and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio

Female Characters Not Grounded In Reality

Nick goes to the funeral of the latest serial killer victim and sees the mayor's daughter. 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, and she not only puts up with it, she agrees 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 killings occur. He also has another pattern involving the windows of each apartment, along with dates the murders are committed.

Is The January Man a Thriller?

Just when it seems that Nick might be on the verge of solving this thing, a copycat killer commits suicide and convinces everyone but Nick that the danger is over, because apparently in 1989 the police force of America's largest city didn't know about copycat 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.

Is The January Man a Comedy?

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 a thriller/comedy.

Kevin Kline (left) and Alan Rickman (right) silence local film critic who doesn't understand if the movie is trying to be funny or scary.

Kevin Kline (left) and Alan Rickman (right) silence local film critic who doesn't understand if the movie is trying to be funny or scary.

Movie Can't Decide What It Wants to Be

The January Man can't seem to decide if it wants to be a comedy or straight thriller. There are scenes that are obviously supposed to be funny that fall flat. Alan Rickman is completely misused. The villain only shows up in the opening and closing scenes, and never provides any sense of threat.

There are plot points that aren't really explained, so much of what happens doesn't make sense. There is zero chemistry between Kevin Kline and Susan Sarandon, who is supposed to be his lost love, but his chemistry with Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio isn't any better, and she's supposed his current love interest.

Watch for the Cast

Despite all the clunkiness, the cast is good enough to make the movie watchable, if not actually good. It's not that funny, but there are laughs to be had. And you won't be on the edge of your seat trying to figure out the killer, but you will be waiting for Alan Rickman to come back on the screen, even if it's obvious he's not playing the character written on the page.

So while I wouldn't go out of my way to watch The January Man, if it's on and there isn't anything else good on, it's worth a sit-through.

© 2022 Gracchus Gruad