Some 21 years ago, big-time movie stars Demi Moore and Alec Baldwin starred in a thriller called “The Juror.”
It was lurid and ridiculous and outlandishly terrible, but if you come across it one night while clicking around and you have the “Start This Program From the Beginning” feature, you might find it entertaining.
The plot makes almost no sense! Is that Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Demi’s teenage son? And look, there’s James Gandolfini, a decade before “Sopranos” stardom!”
As we all know, much has happened in the careers and in the lives of Mr. Baldwin and Ms. Moore over the last two decades — but he’s still a welcome presence on screens big and small, and she’s a rarely uninteresting actress, and it’s something of a B-movie treat to see them throwing themselves with great gusto into “Blind,” a thriller about blind ambition, how we can be blind to the true nature of those we hold dearest — and oh yes, Baldwin’s character is blind, so that’s probably another reason why they called this movie “Blind.”
Baldwin plays Bill Oakland (what a name!), a once-celebrated New York novelist who was in a tragic car accident that killed his wife and robbed Bill of his sight. Bill’s a cantankerous, sometimes cruel cuss who teaches writing at a university and spends a lot of time in a facility where students or volunteers or parolees sentenced to community service read his students’ work and great novels to him.
Moore is Suzanne Dutchman, a beautiful socialite married to the wealthy, alpha male, aggressively ambitious Mark (Dylan McDermott, chewing it up in a wonderfully hammy performance). Suzanne devotes her days to yoga, lunches, dishing with her fellow Real Housewives and appearing on the boards of numerous causes. Mark drapes his wife in diamonds, pals around with seedy financial types and steps on anyone who dares get between him and his next monetary kill.
Mark’s reckless ways land him in jail for insider trading. Suzanne is swept up in the scandal, but a judge decides she was essentially a passive observer, so he sentences her to 100 hours of community service …
Reading to the great and obnoxious Bill Oakland!
Ooooh, does Suzanne ever hate Bill at first. She requests re-assignment to another job, only to be told she’s on probation and she has no say in the matter, and if she doesn’t fulfill her obligations, she’ll wind up discovering firsthand how Orange is the New Black.
Bill doesn’t have much use for Suzanne, either, other than to toy with her and insult her.
Gradually, though, the dynamic between them goes from ice cold to cool to mutual respect to …
Oh, you know where it’s going!
Interspersed with the Bill/Suzanne story, we get some wonderfully implausible prison sequences, in which Mark establishes himself as just as much an alpha male in the rough-and-tumble jailhouse world as he was on Wall Street.
Bill is one of those blind movie characters who develop nearly supernatural powers with their other senses. He identifies Suzanne’s perfume even though it’s a rare brand “they don’t even make any more,” and when Suzanne removes her blouse during one reading session because of the stifling heat, Bill knows SOMETHING is different because she’s giving off a different vibe. It’s almost as if she’s titillated by her secretly bold move.
Baldwin and Moore generate genuine heat and chemistry together, even in some ridiculous moments, i.e., when they’re at a park and Bill reminisces about playing ball, and he insists on “going deep” and having a kid hurl a football at him. (Come on, Bill. You had to know that was a bad idea.)
One of the bigger plot twists deep in the story should come as a surprise to no one but Suzanne. Other wrinkles are clever and fun, in keeping with the just-go-with-it potboiler personality of the film.
Perhaps Baldwin and Moore will team up for another lurid thriller two decades down the road. I wouldn’t mind if they hooked up again a lot sooner.
Vertical Entertainment presents a film directed by Michael Mailer and written by Diane Fisher and John Buffalo Mailer. Rated R (for language including some sexual references, and brief drug use). Running time: 106 minutes. Opens Friday at AMC Village Crossing in Skokie and on demand.