Sole Man: One Way Out (2002)

Dave shares his love for a Belushi-Bateman combo that passed everyone by.

David Lynch’s magnificent return to Twin Peaks in 2017 yielded a variety of social media trends, but perhaps the most unexpected was the realisation from some quarters that Jim Belushi was a good dramatic actor.

Stuck in the (admittedly lucrative) purgatory of a two-hundred episode sitcom run (According to Jim from 2001 – 2009), it’s easy to forget the former Second City improv guy boasted a fine stretch of high quality non-comedy gigs in the ‘90s. Both Retroactive (1997) and Made Men (1999) – his remarkable double-header for Louis Morneau – sit resplendent as the best of his decade, but Belushi also proved he could navigate the dark alleyways of neo noir.

Traces of Red (1992), with co-star Lorraine Bracco being oh-so-sizzling, began a fine threesome of low-lit, sweat-stained dramas that continued with Separate Lives (1995), which boasted a dazzling Linda Hamilton as the femme fatale. ONE WAY OUT completed the set in 2002, and although it loses some of the sex, sleaze and seduction that graced the first two, it remains a deftly crafted crime-thriller.

Harry Woltz (Belushi) is a homicide cop who has a gambling problem. He owes a fortune to the casino-owning Russell brothers (Angelo Tsarouchas and Mike Tsar), who suggest to Harry that they’ll clear his bill if he trains their associate, John Farrow (Jason Bateman), to kill Evans (Guylaine St-Onge), his overly-ambitious seductress of a wife. Alas, best laid plans often go to waste, and the beleaguered detective finds his quest for the perfect murder derailed at the first opportunity as his life begins to unravel in the most spectacular fashion.

Belushi creates a great character with Harry, injecting him with cool personal traits like being a music obsessive and playing the harmonica (while wearing a House of Blues tee – the music venue franchise he founded with Isaac Tigrett, Dan Aykroyd and River Phoenix), but then John Salvati’s detailed script offers such depth. From his pending eviction to a stack of unpaid parking fines, Harry is a deeply flawed individual, which in turn has gifted Belushi with a role to sink his teeth into.

Bateman, too, is just perfect. One year before he began life on Arrested Development, he’s in a similar boat to Belushi where you question his dramatic chops, but he’s quick to dispel any concerns as he balances Farrow with equal measures of charm and naivety. It’s also a treat to see Angela Featherstone and her bewitching blue eyes, fresh from the set of Federal Protection (2002) which, by coincidence, shares Sylvain Brault as the keen-eyed cinematographer on both movies.

Brooklyn-born director Allan A. Goldstein will probably be remembered for putting the final nail in Paul Kersey’s coffin with Death Wish V (1994), but the filmmaker was adept in any genre having swung from serviceable action (Midnight Heat (1996)) and Lifetime drama (When Justice Falls (1999)) to a so-so SyFy programmer (Snakeman (2005)). Here he’s helped immeasurably by the location, as the wintry Montreal backdrop adds to the fabric of the film, increasing the vexatious atmosphere of the worsening situation. Goldstein is a journeyman, but he’s an efficient one at that.

One Way Out zips along at pace, and the helmer is able to weave the film noir tropes through the narrative with subtlety to ensure a satisfying finale for a memorable DTV’er.

Canada ● 2002 ● Thriller ● 95mins

Jim Belushi, Jason Bateman, Angela Featherstone ● Dir. Allan A. Goldstein ● Wri. John Salvati

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