It may have bombed at the box office, but Desperate Hours has all the stuff it needs to follow Mickey Rourke’s other theatrical turkeys to the top of the video charts. The movie certainly deserves a rental just to see Rourke’s historically sleazy performance.
For the most part, the film is merely a thin and manipulative potboiler about a trio of escaped cons who terrorize a bland upper-middle-class family. Originally a play and novel by Joseph Hayes, Desperate Hours was first adapted for the screen by Hayes and director William Wyler in 1955, with Humphrey Bogart as the big baddie. This version, by Michael Cimino (Year of the Dragon), eliminates the earlier movie’s somewhat sanctimonious idealization of the family and adds meaner, wittier dialogue. But the real draw is Rourke in the Bogart role: His insinuating, conspiratorial voice and tightly coiled demeanor suggest the most dangerous form of evil — the kind that attracts.