Night at the Golden Eagle Movie Review

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Old town Los Angeles, just south of the high-rise financial district, is a seedy, run-down visage of what once was a thriving metropolis. Filled with drugs, prostitution, and vagrants, it represents a dark underbelly of the glamour of Hollywood. In the heart of all this mess is the Golden Eagle hotel, setting for Night at the Golden Eagle, by director Adam Rifkin.

The film presents a snapshot of the hotel and its inhabitants, looking into a night filled with murder and gluttony in the doldrums of a desolate world. Tommy (Donnie Montemarano) and Mick (Vinnie Argiro) are two life-long friends from Brooklyn, in their early sixties, who have made their way as crooks. Tommy has just been released from prison, and Mick has brought him back to the hotel, where he surprises his buddy with a story of how he has gone clean. No more crime, booze, or floozies for Mick, who has saved up enough dough for the both of them to get on a bus at 7 a.m. the next morning to head for a new start in Vegas. But a mischievous Tommy, anxious after seven years in the pen, gets into some trouble after being propositioned by the seductive Amber (Natasha Lyonne). Amber is a "whooore," as Tommy refers to her with his thick Brooklyn accent, and part of a small prostitution ring run by Rodan (Vinnie Jones) from within the building. After the encounter, Tommy finds that he has compromised Mick's plans for Vegas and must somehow avoid the twisted Rodan in order to make his escape.

In creating the film's bleak tone, Rifkin (Mouse Hunt) successfully juxtaposes real world shots of old town LA and its drug-infested inhabitants with the dramatic, fictional elements of the film. Set on the hottest day of the year, a barrage of close-ups on the actor's faces further enhances the cinematography, as beads of perspiration add to the tension. The film's fun score is also as diverse as its eclectic cast, ranging from 2 Live Crew's "Hoochie Mamma" to swing, with each character getting a fitting theme.

The film's ensemble cast of young and old includes supporting roles from Brits, Brooklynites, tap dancers, drug addicts, prostitutes, and even includes a cameo from James Caan as a prison warden. Both Argiro and Montemarano, relative newcomers despite their age, have good chemistry but can be green at times. Vinnie Jones, veteran of Lock, Stock, & Two Smoking Barrels and a soccer player in the English Premier League, seems meant for grime and villainy as exemplified by a scene where he convinces a young teenage runaway to join his cause, by stroking her face and mollifying her with adoration.

Rifkin gets credit for writing a screenplay that defies the traditional studio movie mold. With two no-name, geriatric stars and a tone darker than the black of night, it's no wonder he had to fund the project himself. But the project is a labor of love, powerfully effective in shining a light on a part of the world from which most would rather avert their eyes.

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Night at the Golden Eagle Rating

" Good "

Rating: R, 2001


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