Night at the Golden Eagle
Related Titles: Night at the Golden Eagle
Related Names: Donnie Montemarano, Vinny Argiro, Natasha Lyonne, Vinnie Jones, Ann Magnuson, Nicole Jacobs, Fayard Nicholas, Sam Moore, Miles Dougal, Badja Djola, Kitten Natividad, Ron Jeremy, Bunny Summers, Bill Nowlin, Shelly Desai
Night at the Golden Eagle", which I also really liked. Golden Eagle has the same obsession with darker than dark, hell-on-earth textures as Dark Backward. I'm not sure how Rifkin does it, but I've seen few other filmmakers who really capture that sense that you are truly looking into the bowels of hell. Even David Lynch doesn't quite go this far down.
Basic plot involves two old-time cons, one having just been released from prison. The other has been living a straight life at the titular fleabag motel, home to prostitutes, geriatric Hollywood hoofers, and other assorted weirdos and drug addicts. The two old cons have a plan to head to Vegas in the morning and start fresh lives as blackjack dealers, but when a hooker ends up dead in their room, things get complicated. There's also a subplot involving a very young prostitute being shown the tricks of the trade by a motherly older prostitute (played by Ann Magnuson).
The film is actually a pretty big downer. Some definite shades of Bukowski and Hubert Selby Jr. Comic relief comes in the form of a b.s.-spouting, television obsessional (played wonderfully by old-time soul great Sam Moore) and a much put-upon desk clerk ("EVERYONE needs something! I'm out of milk, fer Christ's sake!").
More than anything this makes me wish Rifkin would stick to the darker, textural stuff he has such an undeniable gift for creating.
April 26, 2002
FILM IN REVIEW; 'Night at the Golden Eagle'
By A.O. SCOTT
Published: April 26, 2002
Directed by Adam Rifkin
R, 87 minutes
''Night at the Golden Eagle'' kicks off with a Tom Waits song and quickly descends into a world that even Mr. Waits, a venerable bard of the down-and-out, might find unbearably bleak.
A brief opening sequence is set at a prison. (The warden is played by James Caan in an appearance that barely qualifies even as a cameo.) But apart from that, Adam Rifkin's lurid and atmospheric new film, which opens today in Manhattan and Los Angeles, takes place in and around a filthy Los Angeles hotel, home to drunks, prostitutes, ex-convicts and, most poignantly, a forgotten tap-dance artist (played by the retired hoofer Fayard Nicholas).
After seven years of incarceration, an aging small-time criminal named Tommy (Donnie Montemarano) is taken to the hotel by his old partner, Mic (Vinny Argiro), who has made plans for a new, legitimate life in Las Vegas. (His straight job, about which he lies to Tommy, is mopping up the booths at a peep show.) The likelihood of success is foreshadowed by somber lighting, gloomy music and the plots of countless previous movies about the difficulties of retiring from a life of crime. Tommy, for his part, does not share his pal's hankering for the straight and narrow. When the bus pulls away from the penitentiary without them, Tommy suggests stealing a car. Before long, and not entirely on purpose, he does something much worse, killing a prostitute in a fit of confusion and sexual humiliation.
Meanwhile, Rodan (Vinnie Jones), a charismatic pimp, recruits a very young girl, her teeth still in braces, into a life of prostitution, handing her over to a veteran streetwalker (Ann Magnuson) for training. It's a hot summer night, the windows of the Golden Eagle are nailed shut, and thanks to Mr. Rifkin and Checco Verese, the director of photography, the smell of sweat, urine and cheap liquor seems to emanate from the screen.
Mr. Rifkin, who also wrote the screenplay, has a gift for creating the atmosphere of grimy despair his subject requires, and for leavening the grim proceedings with touches of grotesque humor. His colors -- mostly smeary reds and vile, fluorescent greens -- are so intensely putrid that the film stock itself seems to have rotted. But the visual intensity and the relentless degradation visited on the characters begins to feel prurient and dishonest: the director seems to take an unseemly pleasure in their misery and at the same time to congratulate himself for having the guts to confront it. The problem, though, is not that he lacks the courage to contemplate futility and ruin, but that he's just a bit too eager.
''Night at the Golden Eagle'' is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian) for many scenes of drug use, brutality and sex. A. O. SCOTT