The ABC's of Film Noir
The ABC's of Film Noir

Against All Odds (1984) Classic Movie Review 55

Against All Odds (1984)

Against All Odds (1984)

So what is it you don't like exactly, football players, tacos, or beer?

Against All Odds (1984) – Show Notes

Today’s movie is a remake of Out of the Past (1947) and is titled Against All Odds (1984). This movie has some great actors and a few from the original film.

Rachel Ward played the lead female role, AKA the woman that keeps killing people, Jessie Wyler. Ward was born in England in 1957. Her film career started out on fire. She was in Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982) and Against All Odds (1984) and then as far as the big star thing goes she just sorta got shoved aside. She has been successful in directing and writing.

Jeff Bridges plays down and out football player Terry Brogan. This is the equivalent of the played by Mitchum in Out of the Past (1947). Bridges, born in 1947, is the son of famous actor Lloyd Bridges. Jeff and his older brother Beau grew up around Hollywood and occasionally showed up on his parent’s programs.

Around the age of twenty Bridges started working in films. He hit gold with The Last Picture Show (1971) co-starring Cybill Shepherd. Bridges was nominated for best-supporting actor. The rest of the 1970s was spent in supporting roles in films such as Fat City (1972), Bad Company (1972), his pseudo Junior Johnson stock car racer in The Last American Hero (1973), The Iceman Cometh (1973), as a bank robber with Clint Eastwood in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974) where he earned a second Oscar nomination, Rancho Deluxe (1975), Hearts of the West (1975), a remake of King Kong (1976), and Winter Kills (1979).

In the 1980s Bridge’s laid back style began to produce dividends. One of these movies was the groundbreaking Sci-fi thriller TRON (1982). Another movie during this period was The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989) with his brother and Michelle Pfeiffer. He really got noticed for the sci-fi film Starman (1984) where he played with a deadpan face. Maybe half-tard. He received his third Oscar nomination. He finished the decade with the quite enjoyable triumphant saga Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988).

A good actor up to this point, the 1990s on turned him into a superstar. Some films include enigmatic The Fisher King (1991), American Heart (1992), Fearless (1993), The Big Lebowski (1998), the dude abides, the The Contender (2000), where he played the coolest American president ever and received his fourth Oscar nomination, as a shaved head villain in Iron Man (2008), he was amazing in Crazy Heart (2009), playing a drunken down and out country singer and won the best actor Oscar, he reprised his role as Flynn in TRON: Legacy (2010), before finishing up that decade with True Grit (2010) and another Oscar nomination.

James Woods played the bad guy Jake Wise, the equivalent character of Whit in Out of the Past (1947). Woods was born in 1947 in Utah. Woods was raised in Rhode Island and was at MIT for a short time. In 1967, Woods and a friend went to New York for stage work. He obtained his first movie role in All the Way Home (1971). This was followed by bit roles in The Way We Were (1973) and The Choirboys (1977). His first big break was as a cop killer in The Onion Field (1979). Other good movies for Woods include: Once Upon a Time in America (1984), Salvador (1986), Casino (1995), as a racist killer in Ghosts of Mississippi (1996), and as a sleazy doctor in Any Given Sunday (1999). Of course, I enjoyed him as Hades in the animated Hercules (1997).

Alex Karras played the role of former football player and current trainer Hank Sully. Karras played football for the NFL Detroit Lions from 1958–1962 and 1964–1970. While Karras is well known for his television show “Webster” 1983-1989, I like to think he is best known as Mongo from Blazing Saddles (1974). Aww, Mongo straight. He also played a bodyguard in Victor Victoria (1982) that came out after believing his boss was gay too. Karras died in 2012.

Jane Greer who played the role of Kathie in Episode 54 (1946) – Out of the Past (1947) starred in Against All Odds (1984) as Mrs. Wyler, the mother of the character she played in the first movie.

Veteran actor Richard Widmark played the role of Ben Caxton, lawyer and business partner of Mrs. Wyler. Widmark was covered in Episode 23 – The Long Ships (1964).

Dorian Harewood played the role of bookie Tommy. I guess he is closest to the Joe character from the original. Harewood is a prolific character actor with 167 total credits. Recently he has been active in video games and animated voice work as well as a lot of television. However, he is starred in quite a few enjoyable movies including Gray Lady Down (1978), Tank (1984) – I said enjoyable, not good, Against All Odds (1984), The Falcon and the Snowman (1986), Full Metal Jacket (1987), and Gothika (2003).

Swoosie Kurtz played the role of the secretary Edie, which was equivalent to Meta Carson. Except that Edie was all good while Meta was all bad. Kurtz was educated in drama at USC and she attended the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts. She was successful on Broadway and television. She also had a decent career in movies.

Saul Rubinek played the role of lawyer Steve Kirsch. Rubinek was born in a Germany refugee camp after World War II. His father ran a Yiddish theater company in the camp. The family later moved to Canada where Rubinek became active in theater. He began working in Canadian movies and then American television.

The first film where I took note of Rubinek was Against All Odds (1984). He played such an insufferable ass as the lawyer, making him stand out among the supporting cast. Another movie where he played a jack-ass was Sweet Liberty (1986) and a film director. Rubinek had parts in Wall Street (1987), The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990), a great role as an Eastern reporter in Unforgiven (1992), True Romance (1993), Death Wish V: The Face of Death (1994) I believe without Bronson, Nixon (1995), the great film The Contender (2000), with Jeff Bridges, and Rush Hour 2. He continues to work and make films.

Bill McKinney played Head coach and he was a bastard. McKinney was born in Tennessee in 1931. He joined the Navy at the age of 19 during the Korean Conflict. It was during his time in the Navy that McKinney decided he wanted to be an actor. In 1957, he attended the Pasadena Playhouse with classmates Mako and Dustin Hoffman. He was then admitted to the Actors Studio and studied under Lee Strasberg.

McKinney was in his best-known role in Deliverance (1972) as the hillbilly bugger of Ned Beatty’s character. He was in a rodeo drama Junior Bonner (1972) which was directed by Sam Peckinpah. He was also in The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972) which was directed by John Huston. McKinney met Clint Eastwood while making Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974) which also starred Jeff Bridges. This lead McKinney to cast as the totally evil Red Legs Taylor in The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976). McKinney was in a total of six Eastwood films including The Gauntlet (1977), Every Which Way But Loose (1978), Bronco Billy (1980), and Pink Cadillac (1989).

Other great movie with McKinney include The Shootist (1976) as an enemy of the John Wayne character, the Rambo film First Blood (1982), Heart Like a Wheel (1983) where he played a drag racer with Jeff Bridges’ brother Beau, Against All Odds (1984), Back to the Future III (1990), and The Green Mile (1999). Bill McKinney died in 2011 at the age of 80.


This movie begins in flashback mode. Terry Brogan (Jeff Bridges) is in Cozumel, Mexico looking for a girl. Not just any girl, he has a picture and is looking for a specific girl. There are some very nice exteriors of the island before it became just another love boat port. He falls asleep in a restaurant as a tribute to the original.

The scene flashes back to a practice field for the fictitious Los Angeles Outlaws pro football team. Brogan is doing a good job at practice but the head coach (Bill McKinney) calls him aside and says that he doesn’t think Brogan’s shoulder has recovered from an operation. He makes him hit the tackling sled until the shoulder is injured again. All the time this action is being protested by trainer and friend of Brogan Hank Sully (Alex Karras).

Ben Caxton (Richard Widmark) and partner of the team owner Mrs. Wyler (Jane Greer) comes to visit with a county supervisor and Sully is really rude to them. After practice, the coach puts Brogan on waivers AKA fired. He tries to call his lawyer, Kirsch (Saul Rubinek) but can’t get past his secretary Edie (Swoosie Kurtz). Edie has a crush and tries to help but Kirsch won’t see him.

Outside the practice facility, Sully and Brogan commemorate and Sully tells him he won’t be paid out for his injury. Brogan goes to the office and Edie meets him in reception. Brogan pushes into Kirsch’s office and Kirsch shines him on. Kirsch has to leave for a reception for Councilman Weinberg (Paul Valentine who played Joe in Out of the Past (1947)). Edie feels Brogan the details and tells him where she drinks after work.

Sometime later Brogan is running on the practice field when Tommy (Dorian Harewood) comes out of the shadows and tells him that Jake (James Woods) wants to see him. Tommy also tells him that Jake got stabbed last week. Brogan meets Jake at the beach and Jake explains his gambling business. They race cars back to Jake’s club. Jake wins the race because he is crazier. At the bar, Jake tells Brogan that his girlfriend Jessie Wyler (Rachel Ward) stabbed him and stole $50,000 from him. He wants to pay Brogan to find her. Oh and she just happens to be the daughter of Outlaws team owner Mrs. Wyler. Jake also blackmails Brogan to take the job or he will expose a point-shaving scheme.

Brogan goes to see Mrs. Wyler (Jane Greer) and she knows right away that Jake his sent him to look for Jessie. Mrs. Wyler says she will double what Jake is paying and give him his job back with the Outlaws. She also tells Brogan where Jessie is drawing out money in Mexico. Caxton who shows up sort of balks at the offer. Brogan refuses the offer and they throw him out of the club. He also says Kirsch is on his team and Brogan will have to sue.

The next scene is at a reception where they are modeling the development of a pristine canyon. Bob Soames, one of the commissioners, and some members of the Sierra Club who are against the project show up and Mrs. Wyler charms them. Brogan shows up and has a scuffle with Kirsch and is thrown out of the reception. Sully warns Brogan to stay away from Jake. Brogan won’t take a coaching job because he thinks he can still play.

The timeline flashes forward to Cozumel where Brogan is still looking for Jessie. He finally sees her and tries to talk to her. She knows he has been sent by Jake or her mother so she avoids his advance. In the morning he sees her catch a ferry to Tulum, a Mayan site on the mainland. He charters a boat and follows. Tulum is the Mayan site where the people raised bees and some of the iconographies have been deemed to be ancient alien astronauts.

Anyway, Jessie is a spoiled brat and Brogan takes off. She, of course, can’t stand being left. Jessie tracks Brogan down and they begin a steamy love affair. Brogan confesses that he shaved points and Jessie says she didn’t steal Jake’s money. Brogan leaves on a few week trip to throw Jake off. When he comes back he meets Jessica at Chichen Itza. She admits that she has stolen Jake’s money. They head to the sweat-house and are having sex when Sully pops in. Sully says he is working for Jake and if he can find them anyone can. He also says he has been feeding Jake gambling information. Sully warns Brogan that Jessie is no good. Sully pulls a gun and the two men get into a fight. As they are struggling Jessie shoots Sully. So if you are keeping score, that’s one stabbing and one murder.

Jessie wants to run away but Brogan wants to help the wounded Sully. Jessie runs out on Brogan and he has to get rid of the body alone. He carries the body to the cenote of sacrifice and drops Sully in the water below. Brogan makes his way back to LA. Brogan goes to see Jake and tells him he cannot be blackmailed by the point-shaving anymore. About that time Jessie comes in as she has run back to Jake and told him the whole tale. So Jake forces Brogan to do one more job for him. But it is a setup. At Jake’s club, Brogan is seated with Kirsch so they can have a public conflict. Brogan also sees that Jake has a hold on Councilman Soames as well. Jake tells Brogan that Kirsch is part of the gambling operation as well.

Jake wants Brogan to steal the files about gambling that Kirsch has in his office. After Brogan leaves the club he goes to Jessie and they have a rough make-out. Brogan leaves and breaks into Kirsch’s office. He finds that the lawyer has already been murdered. A thug security guard tries to frame Brogan but he fights him off and then hides Kirsch’s body. Brogan goes to the bar where Edie hangs out. She helps him retrieve the information that Brogan was sent to retrieve. Edie has a run in with a Doberman and Brogan has to fight off two security guards with Edie’s help and they get away with the information.

Jessie runs back to mamma and asked to see Caxton. She tells him that Jake had Kirsch killed and that he has been betting on the Outlaws. She does not know that Jake works for Caxton. Caxton sets up a meet between himself, Brogan, Tommy, Jessie, and Jake at the canyon construction site. At the site, Brogan manages to disarm Tommy and take his gun. Brogan says the price for the files is slapping down Jake. Caxton says that he can do that. Jake pulls his gun and holds it on Jessie. Brogan drops his gun. Jake is holding the gun on the three men when Jessie picks up Brogan’s gun and kills Jake.

So the score is one stabbing and two shooting murders. But I guess one of the murder victims was also the stabbing victim so you can count that how you want. Caxton says he can take care of everything if Jessie goes back to her mother and Brogan leaves Jessie and gives the files to him.

Some months later at the opening of the canyon development, Brogan comes to see Jessie. Caxton talks to him. Brogan is going to play football again and he will be back for Jessie one day. They just stare at each other loving and know their time will come.

World-Famous Short Summary – Bae kills but doesn’t hit the three murder limit

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Beware the moors

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