Desperate Hours Review

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Michael is a psychotic criminal who seduces his lawyer and persuades her to help him to escape prison. Once outside, he and his accomplices take a family hostage to wait out the manhunt. But things begin to go wrong when the father of the family becomes determined to fight back.


When Michael (Rourke - in mean and moody mode) breaks out of prison with the help of pretty lawyer Nancy (Lynch), he and two accomplices need a place to hide until they can flee to Mexico. They select a suburban house, home to Jim (Hopkins) and Nora Cornell (Rogers), and their two children.

When Nora opens the door to Michael, the family's nightmare begins. Held captive by the escaped murderer, his brother (Koteas) and dim-witted sidekick (Morse), they are forced to become dependent on their captors, relying on Michael's assurance that no one will be harmed if they co-operate. But ex-soldier Jim determines to fight back, alienating his family who see him as the person whose heroics could cost them their lives. Meanwhile, Nancy is being questioned by the police and FBI agent Brenda Chandler (Crouse), who believe they can use her to finally catch the escaped criminal. The police manipulate Nancy, and while Michael also uses her, the family and his buddies as pawns - but for how long?

A tried and tested story (first a Broadway play and then a film starring Humphrey Bogart), this thriller seems a perfect vehicle for director Cimino, but it suffers from a slow middle and some chronic miscasting. You may swallow the fact Welsh-accented Hopkins fought in Vietnam, but it's harder to believe he's also married to much younger Mimi Rogers. The toughest pill to swallow though, is Kelly Lynch. Tottering around in mini skirt and three-inch stillettoes, she does not immediately bring to mind a high-powered lawyer. Surprisingly, the most credible character is Michael, played by a convincingly menacing Rourke, who fulfills the promises he made in Body Heat at the beginning of his career.

Despite the usually dependable cast, this is a slow and ever-so-slightly dull affair. Try Bogart's 1955 original instead.