Jim Thompson's provocative pulp crime fiction of the '50s and '60s might have been lost to the dime-store racks of the past if not for an auspicious rediscovery of his work, first in print and then in film. In what is coming to look like a trend, three Thompson books have appeared on the screen in the past year: first, this steamy, sophisticated thriller; then The Grifters, currently in theaters around the country; and The Kill-Off, now in limited theatrical release.
Fittingly, director James Foley (At Close Range) puts style over story, capturing the gritty, long-shadowed tone of his source material. After Dark, My Sweet looks simultaneously crisp and drenched in the yellow light of a strange dream, an effect that becomes especially haunting on video.
In this alluring tour through unsettled emotional territory, Jason Patric (The Lost Boys) gives an exceptionally sharp performance as an ex-boxer with one screw loose and another turned down tight. He's drawn into a kidnapping scheme concocted by a former cop (Bruce Dern) and a sultry widow (Rachel Ward, for whom acting apparently means gesticulating). Together, they visit a place where desire and pain are indistinguishable, and everything goes twistingly awry. B+