Yet Against All Odds rids itself of the femme fatale character — though the woman standing in her place is still sexy and still toys with the emotions of the men in her life — and thus becomes less interesting. Part of the reason Out of the Past was so spellbinding (and has stayed so spellbinding) was because we were so transfixed by the idea of what vicious deed its focal vixen would next put in motion.
But Against All Odds broadens its plot and decides that blaming a single woman for so much destruction is something only the Hollywood Golden Age could successfully enact. Everyday evils, it seems, are more frequently preserved by an upper class who wouldn’t so much as flinch as they crush the livelihood of a lesser being. (Against All Odds, then, is a quasi-social commentary, sometimes effective and sometimes drawn out.)
But the film still engages in lieu of abandoning one of the attributes that made its source material so captivating, and that mostly has to do with the love triangle it keeps intact. That love triangle is comprised of Jeff Bridges, an injured professional football player who's just been fired, Rachel Ward, the slinky daughter of the football team’s owner (portrayed by Jane Greer, who was the lead in Out of the Past), and James Woods, a no-good gangster.
There’s a lot of supplemental plot surrounding the erotic complications, mostly having to do with Bridges getting way in over his head as a result of his owing favors to Woods. But there’s too much supplemental plot: The movie takes its time getting to its central storyline without having a very compelling reason to be such a slow burn.
Bridges and Ward, though, are the reasons why Against All Odds avoids a throwaway interior. They concoct such a believable, conclusive romance we’re more intrigued by it than the actual intrigue. Enough steamy meetings in bed infuse the movie with a sort of sweaty passion from which it benefits. Just when the half-assedly-realized dramas enforced by class struggle start to feel dry, Bridges and Ward, both at their most attractive in the picture, revive it.
Without them, however, Against All Odds would ever so slightly plod. It’s essentially a film noir but doesn’t really commit to its genre of choice. It’s more invested in its satirizing of the materialism of the bourgeoisie, throwing in thriller elements with the wishy-washiness of sprinkles messily thrown on a cake. If it were a thorough remake of Out of the Past, it’d be impossible to resist: Bridges and Ward already have the looks and personae necessary to lucratively reimagine Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer’s decades-old characterizations. But Against All Odds wants to be too many things at once when it doesn’t need to. B
2 Hrs., 1 Min.
Against All Odds
eo-noir Against All Odds (1984) believes in love, and that signifies its being wholly different from the film on which it’s based, the cynical, tough Out of the Past (1947). Against All Odds sighs wistfully as soon as it realizes that romance cannot always work out in the face of corruption, while Out of the Past spits at the very idea of pursuing any kind of positive feeling, especially a romantic one. Memorably, the latter more willingly put attention onto characters who used seduction as their primary method of getting ahead in their miserable lives, with such an idea perpetuated by a persisting femme fatale character perhaps even more evil than Linda Fiorentino in The Last Seduction (1994).