Edited by Solomon on 10/5/2015, 6:06 am
"Dead On" (1994) is an erotic thriller and listed by John Grant as a neo-noir, which it is. This is comparable to a b-feature or a TV-movie in production values. It's serviceable entertainment, done quite smoothly with actors who may not be household names but who actually have done a lot of work. The result may not be terrific but neither is it an embarrassment. This was director Ralph Hemecker's first feature film, and he went on to do much TV work.
This movie features Matt McCoy as an airline pilot who works for his domineering rich wife who owns the airline. He's playing around and meets Shari Shattuck who talks about "Strangers on a Train" and introduces him to the idea of each disposing of the other's mate. Being in the erotic sub-genre, they have several sexual episodes, not really central to the plot and done in the director's concept of an artistic vein, in which Shattuck displays her wares and everyone seems to be in ecstasy. One scene is so outrageous that it's funny, and that's when McCoy and Shattuck grapple each other in the bathroom while the plane is in flight and her husband is on the plane.
This kind of murderous partnership has its pitfalls and twists. Plus any kind of murder inherently has problems in not being traced back to the murderer. These are what make this story interesting.
One is not exactly drawn into a picture like this in the usual emotional sense. The characters are not sympathetic, and we more or less look at them and their goings-on as curiosities. The movie doesn't really deliver thrills or suspense or even tension. It just sort of moves along with the erotic interludes interrupting whatever momentum it has been trying to build up. These interludes subside, however, as the story matures and then it moves along more like a regular movie.
It is our fascination with the startling escapades of these middle-class people with good jobs and money that holds our attention to the screen. From appearances, they've got it made. He's a pilot with a rich wife and she's an artist with a very successful businessman husband. But they're unhappy with their marriages and unsatisfied. Shattuck's husband is rough and bruises her. Prenuptial agreements and the lure of controlling wealth once their mates are gone lure them on. They are cold-blooded enough to conceive of their crimes and schemes and hot-blooded enough to look for the sexual satisfaction their marriages are failing to deliver. Thus in the 1990s we view the distant offspring of the classic 1940s noirs like "Double Indemnity". This is basically a crude and blunt knock-off with none of the subtlety of the originals, none of the rich shadings of characters, none of the sharp dialog, none of the photographic brilliance, and therefore unable to deliver the many pleasures of the earlier well-told stories. Instead we have to reckon with the story-power of culture declining into trash, and trash does have some power, due to its very primitiveness.