[Screen It]


(1998) (Paul Newman, Susan Sarandon) (R)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Mild Moderate Heavy *Mild Extreme
Mild None Mild None Extreme
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Heavy Moderate Minor Minor Extreme

Drama: A detective uncovers a decades old murder mystery that may implicate his married friends and jeopardize their friendship.
After finding and returning seventeen-year-old Mel (REESE WITHERSPOON) to her parents, Jack (GENE HACKMAN) and Catherine Ames (SUSAN SARANDON), and getting shot in the leg in the process, private detective Harry Ross (PAUL NEWMAN), hung up his business. Two years later, the former cop now lives above the Ames' L.A. garage and does odd jobs for them. Learning that Jack has less than two years to live, Harry reluctantly agrees to deliver a mysterious package to Gloria Lamar (MARGO MARTINDALE) for him.

Instead of finding her, however, he's shot at by Lester Ivar (M. EMMET WALSH), a fatally wounded former cop. Ivar had led the investigation dealing with the disappearance of Billy Sullivan, a former actor and one-time fiancÚ to Catherine. Having been shot at, Harry's detective instincts kick in and he begins to nose around, trying to figure out what's going on and how the Ames are connected to this. As he digs deeper into the case, he meets some old acquaintances: Verna (STOCKARD CHANNING), a detective and former lover, Reuben Escobar (GIANCARLO ESPOSITO), a chauffeur who claims to have been, and still wants to be, Harry's partner, and finally Raymond Hope (JAMES GARNER), a former cop who may know something about what's really happening.

Soon Harry learns that Gloria and Jeff Willis (LIEV SCHREIBER), the guy who Mel earlier ran away with, are blackmailing Jack about Billy's disappearance decades earlier. As Harry gets closer to uncovering all of the facts, and as more bodies start piling up, he slowly but surely begins to piece together the truth.

Only if they're fans of someone in the cast, but it's not very likely, especially for younger kids.
For violence, language and some sexuality.
  • PAUL NEWMAN plays an old detective who gets pulled into a decades old case and ends up sleeping with the married wife of his friend/boss. A former alcoholic, he now smokes a few times.
  • SUSAN SARANDON plays a mysterious woman who may be harboring the secrets to that unsolved case. She also smokes and sleeps with Harry.
  • GENE HACKMAN plays a man dying of cancer who also harbors the truth about the disappearance of an actor decades earlier.
  • JAMES GARNER plays a man who "takes care of things" for other people, meaning he performs such criminal actions.


    OUR TAKE: 3.5 out of 10
    The term twilight is usually used to describe the time of day when the sun has gone done, it's becoming more dim, and you begin to feel drowsy and perhaps even sleepy. It's also occasionally used to describe the latter years of one's life or career after a period of glory or success. Both descriptions are appropriate for "Twilight." One of the most eagerly anticipated movies of the year -- simply due to the high powered, Oscar worthy pedigree of those involved with the production -- this is a dull, less than involving feature that may lull, or better yet, bore you to sleep.

    In fact, if not for the cast, this would nearly be a really bad movie. A throwback to the gumshoe noir films of yesteryear, the movie feels old despite the modern day injection of profanity and nudity -- neither of which was allowed decades ago, and neither of which does anything for the story. The inclusion of such material seems at odds with the movie and its target audience. Although it's obviously aimed to satiate the younger crowd, it's doubtful that many under the age of twenty-five will want to see this film. Conversely, it's use will likely offend or irritate the older audience to which the film will almost certainly appeal.

    The performers won't offend anyone, however, unless you consider the weak script from which they desperately try to extract the semblance of decent performances. The main attraction is obviously Newman, a long time favorite of critics and moviegoers alike. An eight-time Oscar nominee (with a win for "The Color of Money"), Newman does his best with what he's been given to work with, but this definitely isn't one of his stronger roles. Despite the stereotypical characterizations, he certainly fits the bill as is quite believable. Playing a former detective who describes himself as "a little rusty," he's quite enjoyable and always engaging to watch.

    That also perfectly describes Susan Sarandon, who's still beautifully alluring despite being at an age when most studio executives think she'd be better off doing Geritol commercials than headlining a feature film. Yet this four-time Academy Award nominee (with a win for "Dead Man Walking") definitely proves that notion wrong in her variation of the standard, noir femme fatale. Although she doesn't seduce Newman's character in the traditional sense, her character's a strong woman filled with mystery and Sarandon expertly plays it with both hot and icy cold moments.

    Five-time Oscar nominee Gene Hackman (with two wins: "Unforgiven" and "The French Connection"), has always been one of my more favorite actors to watch on screen. Unfortunately, here he's given a less substantial and decidedly weaker role than his fellow performers. Playing a cancer-weakened character prevents him from fully playing his usually strong and commanding persona, but he still does a fine job in portraying this character.

    The previously nominated cast doesn't stop there. James Garner (nominated for "Murphy's Romance" and from the popular TV show, "The Rockford Files") is good in his role, but unfortunately now falls into the growing category of former leading men who are now cast as villains (joining Jon Voight, James Caan, and others). Stockard Channing (nominated for "Six Degrees of Separation") plays the investigating cop and former lover to Harry, but not much ever develops from either their previous or current relationship.

    That pretty much sums up "Twilight's" problems. Written and directed by Robert Benton (a dual Oscar winner for "Kramer vs. Kramer," and a best screenwriting Oscar for "Places in the Heart"), and co-written by Richard Russo (who wrote the novel for "Nobody's Fool," another Newman movie), the story is dull, listless and decidedly less than involving. While it's a throwback to older detective films in pacing and structure, it probably even would have come off as boring decades ago.

    While the "mystery" element -- revolving around who's killing people, whether Jack or Catherine is involved, and how it all ties together with a decades old murder/disappearance -- seems intriguing, it's anything but. Developing and unfolding at a glacial pace and featuring flat and relatively harmless villains, there are absolutely no surprises to be found here.

    One continuously hopes that the plot will gel and then finally take off as the events unfold, or even that a few twists or partial turns will surface along the way. Unfortunately they never do. Despite Benton's partially successful attempts at creating the noir atmosphere -- especially using eight- time Oscar nominee Elmer Bernstein's melodramatically moody score -- he cannot overcome his boring, and often unbelievable script.

    For instance, Harry and Catherine sleep together -- which isn't presented convincingly enough to make us believe that it's their first time, or that they haven't been doing this for years. The moment seems forced, and then to top it off, it only generates some brief, mild repercussions instead of a long volley of fireworks one would expect. Likewise, Harry's moments with a chauffeur who dreams of being his partner never work and seem extremely out of place. Then there are the villains and their motivations that similarly are weakly constructed.

    All of that's too bad because not only is a great cast wasted, but it's not often that such a collective ensemble can be brought together for one film. Much like a rare astronomical event that was to feature an impressive alignment of stars, but ultimately was obscured by an overcast sky, this alignment of a different group of stars is clouded by a dull script. We know they're capable of shining, but we just can't seem them doing so. For that reason, we give "Twilight" just a 3.5 out of 10.

    Although it's doubtful many kids will want to see this film, here's a quick look at the content. Profanity is extreme with 17 "f" words, some slang terms for male genitals, and other words and phrases. There are several glimpses of nudity (some brief, some longer) of women's bare breasts, as well as some brief sexual talk and a sexual encounter that isn't seen. Several people are shot and killed, and some of the victims are rather bloody. If you or someone in your home wishes to see this film, you may want to first look through the detailed content.

  • In an early scene (when he was a self-admitted alcoholic), Harry drinks a beer at a bar where others also drink.
  • Raymond pours liquor from a flask into his coffee.
  • Raymond has a drink.
  • Jeff drinks a beer while eating.
  • Harry's pants leg is bloody after he's been shot.
  • A man who's been shot is very bloody, and we see many views of him.
  • While neither bloody nor gory, we do see a urine stream (that Harry nearly walks into) coming from a balcony.
  • Two people are shot and killed. We see blood on one and a nearby table, while the other has a bloody stomach and hand.
  • Another person who's been shot is somewhat bloody.
  • Those responsible/knowledgeable about Billy's death, and those of the others, have both.
  • Mel tells Harry, "You think you're a member of this family, but you're not. You're just the hired help."
  • Harry elbows and breaks a pane of glass in a door to let himself inside a stranger's house.
  • Harry and Catherine have a one-time affair despite her being married and Harry living in the house with the married couple.
  • Some people try to extort money from Jack.
  • Viewers may find scenes listed under "Violence" as tense.
  • Harry goes to deliver a package to a person. Inside the house, he slowly walks around and then encounters a bloody, wounded man who fires several shots at him. This man then stumbles after Harry, firing more shots at him.
  • Jack has a heart attack and Catherine and Harry rush to his aide.
  • Handguns: Used to threaten, wound, or kill people. See "Violence" for details.
  • Phrases: "F*ck up," "Boinking" and "Hump" (sexual), "Wimp," "Piss poor," "Pissed you off," "Piss," "Screwed up," "Rat's ass," "Pain in the ass" and "Bitch" (not toward women).
  • None.
  • There is a mild amount of "old style," melodramatically tense music in various scenes.
  • None.
  • At least 17 "f" words (2 used sexually), 9 "s" words, 7 slang terms for male genitals (the "d" and two different "p" words), 1 slang term for breasts (the "t" word), 5 asses, 5 hells, 4 S.O.B.'s, 1 damn, and 3 uses each of "G-damn," "Jesus Christ," and "God," 2 uses of "Oh God" and 1 use each of "Oh Lord," "Jesus," "Christ," "Swear to Christ," and "For Christ's sakes" as exclamations.
  • Mel shows some cleavage in her bikini.
  • Later, and apparently after having sex with Jeff, we see her bare breasts as he kisses her down her body. She then gets up and walks around and we again see her bare breasts.
  • Catherine swims nude under water (seen from above) and we see glimpses of her bare butt and the side of her bare breast. Later, when she gets out, we see an out of focus shot of her walking toward Harry (where we see her out of focus bare breasts).
  • A running joke through the movie is that in the past Mel accidentally shot off Harry's genitals. Later, Verna reaches her hand into his pocket to check and he says, "I never knew you cared." She replies, "Just checking."
  • Raymond tells Harry that one of his goals was to "get into" Verna's knickers, and that while he didn't, he understands that Harry did.
  • Raymond then tells Harry (about Verna), "If she ever gets the urge to hump an old man, she can hump me."
  • Although nothing is seen, Harry and Catherine have sex. When she runs off to help Jack, however, we briefly see her bare butt and breast.
  • Both Catherine and Harry smoke several times (her about five, him about three) during the movie.
  • There is a brief scene where Jack confronts Catherine and Harry about their affair and her infidelity.
  • Harry briefly mentions his daughter's death (unexplained) that led to his drinking problem.
  • At the beginning Harry is sent to find and return Mel back home, but nothing more is made of this.
  • That secrets -- especially of the criminal kind and no matter how well buried -- will almost always eventually come to the surface.
  • Harry swings a bag around and hits Jeff in the crotch. Mel then hits Harry, causing his gun to fall to the ground. She picks it up and it accidentally fires, striking Harry in the leg.
  • A bloody, wounded man shoots at Harry several times.
  • Harry elbows and breaks a pane of glass in a door.
  • Jack (who's on the floor after having a heart attack) hits Catherine after he learns of her affair.
  • Harry knocks a gun from a person who's aiming it at him, but another person then whacks him on the head, knocking him to the ground. That person then kicks Harry in the gut.
  • Harry slams Jeff's face into a plate of food, and then puts a choke hold on him.
  • Two people are shot and killed.
  • An unearthed skeleton shows that the victim was shot in the head.
  • Catherine purposefully breaks items in her house by hand and with a fireplace poker.
  • A man shoots at another man, who then fires back and kills the man with several shots.

  • Reviewed March 3, 1998

    Other new and recent reviews include:

    [1917] [Bombshell] [Cats] [Little Women] [Spies In Disguise] [Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker] [Uncut Gems]

    Privacy Statement and Terms of Use and Disclaimer
    By entering this site you acknowledge to having read and agreed to the above conditions.

    All Rights Reserved,
    ©1996-2020 Screen It, Inc.