The January Man (1989)

DailyView: Day 301, Movie 426

I have always been a fan of serial killers in pop culture. I was an avid reader about Jack the Ripper and the Zodiac Killer when I was younger and I was intrigued by the type of person who could do such heinous actions against other human beings. All that means is that I have a soft spot in my heart for movies dealing with serial killers, and there are no shortage of them. Even those that are average to below average interest me.

The January Man falls right into that wheelhouse of films. It has Kevin Kline as former police detective Nick Starkey, who had been forced off of the force two years before due to a scandal. His brother Frank (Harvey Keitel) had become the Commissioner, and he had a contemptuous relationship with Nick. The city had been frightened for the last year as a serial killer had strangled one woman every month. There had been 11 murders so far.

The Mayor (Rod Steiger), desperate for some resolution to the case, brings Nick back to help find the killer.

I liked some of the parts of the story that were involving the actual murder case. Watching the unconventional Nick figure out details of the serial killer’s personality was fascinating and made Nick look smart. Most of the rest of the movie was pretty lame.

There was a whole subplot involving Nick and his brother’s wife, Christine (Susan Sarandon) that is just ridiculous. The rest of the cast, from Harvey Keitel to Rod Steiger to Captain Vincent Alcoa (Danny Aiello) spent the whole movie just randomly yelling.

Alan Rickman is in the movie as Ed, Nick’s painter friend, who really has no other reason than to get Alan Rickman into the movie. He is totally underutilized. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio played the Mayor’s daughter Bernadette, who forms a relationship with the older Nick. I liked her character although she went from a scared young girl to a tough woman pretty quickly.

The dialogue is not good. The performances are fine, but the film does not really have a tone to it. The third act changes from a more serious serial killer movie to an almost slapstick finale that felt out of place in a story that had a murderer of 11 women.

By the way, the murderer wound up in blackface, which may have been okay to have portrayed in 1989, but in 2022 it felt irresponsible.

Nick and Bernadette had a sweet relationship that could have been expanded. The killer’s signature and victim choice was interesting and I enjoyed how Nick worked his way through the clues unlike most people could have. There was just so much more than did not work or was out of place here. Great actors such as Alan Rickman and Susan Sarandon were wasted and other great actors just spent too much time screaming. What I hoped would be an entertaining film in the serial killer genre turned into mostly a mess. Kevin Kline was engaging as always though.

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