Mike Figgis, an English musician and TV and theatre director, displays a gift for sensual, threatening atmosphere in his debut movie. And if you’re content to do nothing more than soak up visual and aural atmosphere, you’ll enjoy it.
His score, incorporating blues standards, is outstanding. So are Roger Deakins’ photography and Andrew McAlpine’s production design, laden with purples and reds.
And Sting – the former frontman of The Police – is excellent in the role of Finney, a jazz club owner (he has a memorable scene playing the double bass alone in his club).
Sting’s performance, though, owes nothing to Figgis’ script – an inept piece that implodes with coincidence.
Figgis and other 1980s directors who admire the dark thrillers of the 1940s appear to have forgotten that more often than not those pictures were solid rocks of plot, dialogue and characterisation.
The script for Stormy Monday is barely an excuse to support lush sights and sounds.
The setting is the waterfront area of Newcastle. Kate (Melanie Griffith) is a B-girl for American gangster/property development tycoon Cosmo (Tommy Lee Jones) and a waitress at Finney’s waterfront club.
She becomes involved with Brendan (Sean Bean), a young Irishman who does odd jobs on the premises.
Cosmo, who wants to take over the property, has a contract out on Finney.
At the same time, there’s murder in his eye when he realises Kate is getting out of his grasp. None of that is convincing, and the bloody climax is just silly.
The American actors get the worst of it. Griffiths – looking unflatteringly overweight – and Jones are like fish challenged to sink or swim in inhospitable waters. They sink.
Tommy Lee Jones
Scott Hoxby (as Derek Hoxby)