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Pacific Heights

Pacific Heights
Stylish direction by Oscar winner John Schlesinger and a bone-chilling performance from Michael Keaton notwithstanding keep a highly improbably 1990 thriller somewhat watchable despite some plot holes you can drive a truck through.

Drake Goodman (Matthew Modine) and his girlfriend Patty Parker (Melanie Griffith) have sunk everything they own into restoring an old San Francisco house with two rental units. Their lives and their home are methodically destroyed when a slick con man who calls himself Carter Hayes (Keaton) talks Drake into allowing him to rent one of the units and is able to take possession of the unit, despite his never paying the rent. It's not long before it comes to light is not just a con man, but a dangerous psychopath.

The basic premise of the film is decent but there are so many inaccuracies and unanswered questions in Daniel Pyne's screenplay that it's difficult to believe a lot of what happens here. Just like Max Cady in Cape Fear, it was difficult accepting the way the law seemed to protect Carter Hayes through most of the film. It's hard to believe that the police cannot forcibly remove someone from an apartment who hasn't paid a dime of rent. When Drake goes to the door and and Carter's partner Greg, who Drake has never met, answers the door, that should have been grounds for Drake to call the police. And just like Max Cady, Hayes id actually able to get a restraining order against Drake. It's never made clear exactly what Hayes was doing in the apartment and no one seemed to care when Patty finally gets in the apartment and it's been destroyed.

Drake and Patty make their share of dumb moves in the story as well. No landlord on the planet would ever let anyone get into an apartment without the rent in their hand. And the fact that Carter refused to fill out the tenant application should have been a red flag for Drake anyway. That coupled with the fake references not checking out made Drake look like a moron. Patty was a little smarter than Drake, but her playing Junior Detective wasn't really smart either. I did like the fact that Patty was smarter than Drake.

John Schlesinger, who won an Oscar for directing Midnight Cowboy, shows endless style in his presentation of the story, filling the screen with equal doses of cinematic clues and red herrings that simultaneously pique and confuse the viewer. Michael Keaton is genuinely frightening as Carter Hayes, creating a character that does demand audience attention, but definitely not sympathy. It's impossible to accept a lot of the ridiculous directions this story goes, but the work of Keaton and Schlesinger also make the nonsense worth it.