Double feature for this week from the NYT

Your weekly double feature: Jim Thompson
Annette Bening in a scene from “The Grifters.”Miramax
‘The Grifters’ and ‘After Dark, My Sweet’
There’s an edge of psychosis and nihilism to the work of the crime novelist Jim Thompson, but his characters often break down more simply into two types of people: The con artist and the mark. That did not necessarily prevent a con artist from becoming a mark or a mark from getting one over on the con artist. But such is the nature of antihero transaction.
Two sharp Thompson adaptations helped kick off the wave of indie neo-noirs that hit art houses in the early 1990s. Now streaming on HBO Max, Stephen Frears’s “The Grifters” (1990) has a disarmingly playful tone that masks heavy Freudian overtones and the rotten-to-the-core deviousness of its characters. John Cusack stars as a small-timer whose loyalties are torn between two better and more ambitious grifters: one a bubbly sexpot looking to partner up on a long con (Annette Bening, in a breakthrough performance), and the other his distant mother (Anjelica Huston), who fixes horse-racing odds for a dangerous bookie. The three characters are set on a collision course that ends in the requisite twists, but the film has a more emotional tug than expected.
Although it didn’t get nearly as much attention at the time, “After Dark, My Sweet” (1990) effectively updates Thompson’s 1955 novel, and its setting, an arid desert outside Palm Springs, underlines the loneliness and existential dream of a true Thompsonian loser. A brooding Jason Patric plays an ex-boxer and escaped mental patient, making him the ideal mark for a couple of schemers who can take advantage of his strength and vulnerability. It doesn’t take long for him to fall for a sexy widow (Rachel Ward) and it doesn’t take much longer than that for her sleazy ex-cop friend (Bruce Dern) to bring him in on a kidnapping plot. His survival, here as in the ring, depends on whether he can see the punch coming. SCOTT TOBIAS
Stream “The Grifters” on HBO Max. Rent it on AmazonAppleGoogle PlayVudu and YouTube.
Rent “After Dark, My Sweet” on AmazonAppleGoogle PlayVudu and YouTube.

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