Most of the actors in 1982’s “Fast Times At Ridgemont High” have enjoyed long and successful careers: Jennifer Jason Lee, Judge Reinhold, Vincent Sciavelli, Forest Whitaker, Eric Stoltz, Anthony Edwards and bit player Nicholas Cage, who went on to win an Oscar along with “Fast Times” most memorable star, Sean Penn. James Russo, who played a stick-up man in the closing moments of the movie, has made over forty movies in the last two dozen years, mostly characters on the wrong side of the law.
“The Box”, now available from MTI Home Video is James Russo’s movie from start to finish. He wrote the screenplay and stars as Frank Miles, a professional thief. The central premise has been a filmmaker’s favorite since the silent era. Fresh out of prison, Frank decides to go straight. He falls in love with Dora Baker, a coffee shop waitress with a dark past of her own. Theresa Russell is Dora and few actresses are better at sliding into the skin of neo-noir characters than Russell, who’s been playing not-so-good girls for nearly thirty years. Frank and Dora are made for each other. There are many hitches, however, since Brad Dourif, Steve Railsback, Michael Rooker and Jon Polito are also in the cast. Frank and Dora clearly have a fight on their hands.
The chief asset about “The Box” is the performances. Russell is excellent as always, adding subtle revealing touches to the life-worn Dora. Frank Miles is clearly an irredeemable screw-up, but James Russo always makes you believe that he has a plan to get himself out of the nightmare of Miller’s life. “The Box”, while not a masterpiece, is good late night fare. It’s a relief to see a 50 year old con falling for an interesting woman his own age, rather than a teeny bopper who’ll make him feel like a kid again. Frank Miles remembers what being a kid is like and he doesn’t want to go there.
© 2004 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 10/20/04
USA - 2003